Nike has sacked Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback Michael Vick, contradicting the player's agent who said on Wednesday that the shoe giant had re-signed him. "Nike does not have a contractual relationship with Michael Vick," Nike said in a statement issued Thursday. Vick was released from prison in May after serving time for killing dogs for sport and profit.
It's understandable that Nike would be wary of resuming business with a man convicted of running an illegal dog-fighting operation that horrified the nation. Yet on Wednesday, Mike Principe, managing director of Vick's agency, BEST, apparently believing that Nike had re-signed his client, announced as much at an event hosted by SportsBusiness Journal. Without disclosing details of an arrangement, Vick's agent, Joel Segal, said, "Mike has had a great relationship with Nike and is excited to be part of the Nike team again."
But on Thursday, Nike denied that it had re-signed Vick but said it had agreed to supply "product" to him "as we do a number of athletes who are not under contract with Nike."
Sponsors have been been assessing whether to hitch their wagons to Vick, who served as the ringleader of Bad Newz Kennels, a Virginia compound where 70 dogs, mostly pit bull terriers showing signs of abuse, were seized. Vick had funded and organized dogfighting games where attendees abused drugs and bet on the animals. Several dogs were killed; others were maimed.
Nike and Vick had had an endorsement contract when he played for the Atlanta Falcons and thrilled NFL fans with his dynamic play. But the marketer dropped Vick after his guilty plea.
Vick served 20 months in prison and lost an estimated $100 million in salary and endorsements. Now reinstated by the NFL, Vick played in his first regular-season game since 2006 on September 27.
At least one advertising exec says Nike should resign Vick. "Why not?" says John Barker, president of BarkerDZP. "Vick is one of the most exciting athletes in all of sports, and America has a short memory. Snoop Dogg is America's endorsement darling, and the list of similar stories is long," says Barker. "Unless they come out with dog-leather shoes, they'll be fine."
Vick, having paid his debt to society, should be free to make a living. But hopefully the quarterback, who has said he wants to further make amends for his cruelty, will donate a significant chunk of his salary and any endorsement deals to animal-cruelty prevention.
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