John Breech of CBS Sports noted as of 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, 15,463 people signed a Change.org petition demanding that the Steelers get rid of Vick. What's more, a Facebook group called "Pittsburghers Against Michael Vick" had more than 13,000 likes by Wednesday afternoon.
Breech also passed along a portion of the petition:
Michael Vick is a convicted felon and no-class piece of crap. He is also a terrible QB which is why he has no team. Let's united [sic] as Steeler fans—as NFL fans—and stop him from playing on our team! Steelers fans united! Sign to keep Vick from ever wearing the coveted Steelers uniform!!
The hostility stems from Vick’s past transgressions of animal cruelty. He was sentenced to 23 months in a federal prison in 2007 (he served the final two months under home confinement) for running a dogfighting ring in Virginia. Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk seemed to understand why there were so many signatures on the petition:
There are certain things that certain segments of a fanbase are unwilling to forgive.
But the entire fanbase better know that football concerns will practically always win.
The backlash after the Steelers signed Michael Vick was predictable, as a number of fans aren’t willing to let go of a little thing like drowning dogs with your bare hands if they weren’t proficient enough at fighting another animal to its death.
People are funny that way, but hey, the Steelers needed a backup quarterback.
Despite the backlash to the signing, coach Mike Tomlin pointed out the Steelers did their research before adding Vick, per Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: “You are sensitive to those potential things, but we are going to do our due diligence. Rest assured that we have done that. Also, rest assured that he has done a lot since some of the things that he has gone through. His track record to this point speaks for itself.”
While the petition has plenty of signatures, there weren’t that many protesters who showed up in person to Steelers practice, as Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review highlighted:
Chris Adamski @C_AdamskiTrib
Michael Vick protesters outside the Steelers' facility as practice ends http://t.co/TkOPrA5w6v2015-8-26 19:26:05
Al Bernstein of Showtime Television pointed to Vick’s prison time when reacting to the protesters:
Al Bernstein @AlBernstein
why protestMichael Vick? He paid his price to society, now working. That's how system works. protest other athletes NOT punished 4 crimes2015-8-26 21:34:31
On the field, Vick signed with the Philadelphia Eagles after his prison sentence. He played there from 2009-13 and threw for a career-high 21 touchdown passes in 2010 and a career-high 3,303 passing yards in 2011. He also appeared in 10 games for the New York Jets last season but struggled at times and tallied three touchdown passes to two interceptions.
He doesn’t figure to see significant playing time in 2015 if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger stays healthy.