Animal advocates troubled by speaker for Christian event in Youngstown

Local News
Michael Vick

A popular Christian event in the Valley is bringing in some big-name speakers this year, but it’s the choice of one speaker that has local animal advocates upset.

Jason Cooke said he found out Thursday that retired NFL Quarterback Michael Vick is scheduled to speak at Men’s Rally in the Valley, and he is now encouraging event organizers to find another speaker. 

“I think the event they’re doing is fantastic, but their choice of this one speaker is a very poor choice,” he said.

Cooke is referring to Vick’s past with dog-fighting. 

Vick gained fame with the Atlanta Falcons before he was sent to prison for running a dogfighting operation and lying about his involvement. He served nearly two years in prison for that crime. 

Vick is among five other speakers, including Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder and singer-songwriter Mark Schultz. The free event takes place on April 27 at the Covelli Centre and is designed to “bring men together in Christian unity for prayer, fellowship, worship and teaching.” 

Organizer Bing Newton acknowledged Vick’s criminal past, but said he made a “big mistake.” 

“God only put one perfect individual on this Earth, and that person is not Bing Newton. How can I sit and condemn somebody? I can’t,” he said. 

Newton said he believes that Vick has made a change in his life and that he could offer some insight to others who have struggled. 

“I don’t choose one speaker. The Lord does,” Newton said. 

Cooke said he doesn’t believe that Vick has changed, however, saying he’s only sorry because he was caught. 

“He shouldn’t be in the public eye like this… It’s almost a slap in our face to see someone like that come here to speak about how to be a better person,” he said. 

Cooke said if organizers don’t change the speaker, he and others will show up in protest. He said they plan to be respectful but will go to the event and turn their back on Vick when he speaks.

He adds that this is not new. He said people have held rallies and protests at other events in which Vick is the speaker. 

We reached out to Vick’s team for comment, but we haven’t heard back. 

On Men’s Rally in the Valley’s website, Vick says he plans to share his “life lessons” in order to “help men make better choices.” 

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