Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick’s scheduled appearance to sign autographs at a Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar in Pennsylvania has been canceled by the hosts, who said they received close to 1,500 death threats from people still upset about Vick’s involvement in a dogfighting ring several years ago.
Joe Bartolo, owner of JJ Cards-N-Toys, said he and his wife have been bombarded with the threats after he announced plans to hold the signing at the end of October at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Springettsbury Township.
“You don’t threaten my family. That’s BS.,” Bartolo said at an event featuring Vick’s teammate, LeSean McCoy, on Saturday in Hanover, Penn.
“People act big behind a computer,” he added. “One person from Canada said stuff and I told them come on down to Hanover and you will see the wrong end of my pistol.”
Buffalo Wild Wings announced by an email that the event was canceled, adding that the signing was never properly sanctioned.
“The event was arranged through a third party and did not follow the proper process or go through appropriate approvals,” the statement said. “Charging our guests for promotions is not in keeping with how we conduct our restaurant promotions.”
Vick was to offer autographs and fan photos for $75 per item.
Melissa Smith, executive director of the York County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said she thought the restaurant made the right call.
“What (Vick) represents to those of us who are compassionate toward animals, I don’t think it’s something (Buffalo Wild Wings) wants to portray at their establishment,” she said.
But with 70 tickets already sold, Bartolo said Vick would come to York, even if it was not at Buffalo Wild Wings. “We are definitely going to have the signing,” he said.
The location will be released on Monday or Tuesday to customers on the store’s email list, but will not be announced on social media accounts.
“Until then, we do not want people talking about it,” Bartolo said.
It has been more than five years since Vick was implicated in an interstate dog-fighting ring and pleaded guilty to federal felony charges. He spent 18 months in federal prison. But Smith said that many in the animal rights community remain angry.
“The animals suffered so horribly – it’s not something people are willing to let pass so easily,” she said. “I would think that this stigma will follow him wherever he goes with this population of people.”