By Stephanie Lucero, CBS 11 News

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway is defending giving Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Michael Vick a commemorative key to the City of Dallas.

Caraway spent most of the day Tuesday explaining why he awarded Vick the key.

Caraway presented Vick the key Saturday evening at a event for children held at Club Cirque.  It was captured on cell phone video and animal activists have criticized Caraway for awarding it to Vick, who was convicted and sent to prison for his role in a dog-fighting operation.  He pleaded guilty to felony charges in 2007 and served a 21-month sentence.

“You have people who are not willing to forget it and you have other people who are willing to forgive” said Caraway today about Vick’s involvement in the dog-fighting ring.

“I do not condone cruelty to animals but it was not about that” Caraway adds.  “It’s about having someone that the children will listen to and take from that person, ‘hey, don’t get involved with drugs, get your homework done, complete your education.”

Critics like Katrina Pierson, say Caraway should not praise Vick in that way.  “I am a mom and I am trying to raise a nice, respectable young man, who does look up to these professional athletes” says Pierson.  “He should have given him his house keys if he likes Michael Vick so much, not the key to the city” she adds.  “You give keys to the city to people who have done great things for the City of Dallas or heroes who have done outstanding things to help the citizens of Dallas.  I’m not quite sure how Michael Vick fits that profile” says Pierson.

Reverend Marion Barnett supports Caraway and says it was appropriate to give Vick the key.  “When we look at Mr. Vick, he’s had a repentant type of attitude” says Barnett.  “It’s racism.  Yes, there’s still a double-standard in this country and we need to stop this unethical treatment of black human beings” says Barnett.

Pierson, who is black, disagrees and she believes this controversy could hurt Caraway’s chances of getting re-elected.  “I think that’s a clear sign that that man should not be representing the City of Dallas in any way” says Pierson.

When Caraway was asked if he agrees with Barnett, he said “I don’t play the race card.  I try not to, even though the race card has been played with me, with several different emails.”

Caraway says he will not try to get the key back from Vick.  “That’s not an option” says Caraway.

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