Protesters spoil Ed Block banquet

March 09, 2010 | Drew Forrester

Since it’s evidently our God-given, proud-to-be-an-American right to protest, I think I’m going to join in the protest that’s scheduled for tonight at Martin’s West when 32 NFL players are honored as part of Baltimore’s annual Ed Block Courage Award banquet.

I’m not protesting Michael Vick’s appearance, though.

I’m protesting the protesters who are promising to be on hand to publicly show their disdain for Vick’s selection as this year’s honoree from the Philadelphia Eagles.  My form of protest is simple:  I’m not going to the event.  It will be the first time in 9 years that I won’t be at Martin’s West, but I’m not going out there tonight and watch a bunch of goofs foul up what is otherwise always looked upon as one of the highlights of the Baltimore spring sports calendar.

According to someone who rattled my cage throughout Monday via e-mail, “a large number” of people will be on hand tonight to protest Vick’s appearance.


Wake me up when these do-gooders actually wind up doing something useful with their time.

I’m not against a good, solid protest of sorts.  I remember one back in September of 2006 that started the revival of the Orioles franchise.  A good protest can be effective.

But what these creeps are doing tonight at Martin’s West isn’t a “good” protest at all.  It’s silly.  And it’s completely out-of-line, based mainly on the fact that it takes away from the efforts of the 32 players (or, the 31 players, if you discount any good deed that Vick has done over the last 9 months since being released from prison.)

Someone identifying herself as “Pamela” e-mailed me early Monday morning to invite me to the protest tonight.  For the record, she never identified herself as being attached to PETA or any other animal-rights affiliated organization.  In each of her e-mails (six in all), she always referred to her gathering of people as “my group”.  She wanted me to stand alongside the road leading up to Martin’s West to join her group in offering Vick a rude awakening when he approaches the building.  “We have signs that speak louder than any words we can use,” Pamela wrote me.  She also mentioned her group had purchased a number of tables for the event and would make their disgust for Vick known when his name is announced to collect his award.

That’s where they’ve stepped over the line.

Personally, I have no problem with folks standing along the road and yelling and waving signs when Vick enters the facility.  It’s a public road…they can do whatever they want.  And it’s not like Michael Vick isn’t going to see this kind of behavior for a long, long time.  No matter where he goes from here, at least for the forseeable future, he’s going to have people yelling at him for his past transgressions.  He’s so accustomed to it by now I doubt he even gives the protesters he sees tonight a second thought.  “Oh, more people standing around yelling at me for something I’m supposed to be working hard to make amends for…yawn…tell them to take a number.”

But roadside protesting is fine.  I see its merit, even if I’m not interested in doing it.  People want to make a name for themselves and they want to give off the appearance they’re doing God’s work by letting these criminals know they have a long road ahead before they’ll be forgiven by the general public.  They’d do a lot more good volunteering their time at a local soup kitchen or, even, at a children’s center for abused boys and girls…instead of hootin’ and hollerin’ about this guy who served time in jail and is now trying to walk the right path.

So, if you want to stand along the road and wave signs, go right ahead. (“Ain’t that America…for you and me…Ain’t that America, home of the free, baby…”)

But protesting IN THE BUILDING, during the dinner, is completely inappropriate and undermines the efforts of everyone being honored.

It’s no longer a banquet dedicated to the hard work and courage shown by the award winners.  It’s now an event where a group of people are going to shine the spotlight on ONE player for all the wrong reasons and completely overshadow the other 31.

It’s wrong.

And that’s what I told Pamela yesterday when she continued to chase after me about being “upstanding” and “community and civic minded” and wanted to know why I don’t care enough to have a presence at the event.

Answer:  Because the event is about rewarding NFL football players.  It’s not about pissing on a guy for a past criminal act.

So I’m protesting tonight by not going, and that’s a shame, really, because the good folks at the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation deserve everyone’s support both this evening and throughout the year.

But I’m not going to go out there and feel uncomfortable – for Michael Vick…or any of the players on hand – and fake as if I’m enjoying myself when, in fact, the in-the-building catcalls, booing or derisive cheers will do nothing at all to serve the common purpose of helping the abused children at the St. Vincent’s Children’s Center.

When someone can tell me exactly how embarrassing Michael Vick tonight helps the kids at St. Vincent’s, perhaps I’ll change my mind.

But since no one can do that, I think I’ll just sit home for the first time in 9 years.