FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Nike suspended its lucrative contract with Michael Vick on Friday, while Reebok took the unprecedented
step of stopping sales of his No. 7 jersey.
Facing protests from animal-rights groups, Nike announced it was suspending Vick's endorsement deal without pay, as well as halting
sales of Vick-related shoes and other products at its retail
Reebok, the official uniform supplier of the NFL, said it would
stop selling Vick's replica jersey at retail stores and through its
In another dose of bad news for the indicted quarterback, two top trading card companies announced they were pulling Vick's likeness from any new packs.
Donruss, one of four major trading card companies, has decided to pull Vick's card from any future 2007 releases, according to Beckett Media, which covers the collectibles industry.
Then, on Saturday, Upper Deck said it removed all Vick autographed memorabilia from its online store and will remove the indicted quarterback's trading card from NFL sets that are scheduled to be released in October.
The moves came just days after the Atlanta Falcons quarterback pleaded not guilty to federal dogfighting charges in Richmond, Va.
"Nike is concerned by the serious and highly disturbing
allegations made against Michael Vick, and we consider any cruelty
to animals inhumane and abhorrent," Nike spokesman Dean Stoyer
said in a statement.
Since Vick has not been convicted of any crime, Nike left open the door to resume its business relationship with the star player
if he's acquitted.
"We do believe that Michael Vick should be afforded the same
due process as any citizen in the United States," according to the
statement. "Therefore, we have not terminated our relationship."
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, in response to Nike's decision, said Friday it would call off plans to picket NikeTown stores across the country next week.
"PETA commends Nike for its decision to suspend Michael Vick's contract without pay and to discontinue sales of Vick merchandise pending the outcome of his trial," PETA said in a statement. "No company wants a spokesperson with a massive illegal dogfighting ring operating on his property, regardless of his level of involvement."
The Humane Society of the United States said the companies couldn't ignore the overwhelming opposition to having any association with Vick. He said some 165,000 e-mails were sent to
Nike through the group's Web site.
"I think there's a direct relationship," said Wayne Pacelle,
president of the HSUS. "We asked them to do this and the pressure continued to build, especially as the facts of the indictment came
out. It simply became an untenable position."
There was no immediate response from the Vick camp. An
after-hours phone message was left with his agent, Joel Segal, while unsuccessful attempts were made to reach his new attorney, Billy Martin, by phone and e-mail.
Although Reebok does not have a business relationship with Vick, the Massachusetts-based company serves as the official supplier of
apparel and equipment to all 32 NFL teams. Through that deal, it
holds the coveted rights to sell jerseys at the retail level.
"We just find the allegations very upsetting and very
disturbing," Reebok spokeswoman Denise Kaigler said. "While this
is just the beginning of the legal process and we know that it has
to have time to run its course, we felt that making this decision
now was important and the right things to do."
Reebok said it also was willing to take back any unsold Vick
jerseys that are returned by retail outlets.
Kaigler said she already had received numerous e-mails in
support of the decision. Even though numerous NFL players have run
afoul of the law, this is the first time Reebok has stopped sales
of an individual jersey.
"The number of e-mails and statements we're getting from
consumers was pretty telling about how disturbing people find these
allegations to be," Kaigler said.
Donruss, one of four major trading card companies, has decided to pull Vick's card from any future 2007 releases, according to
Beckett Media, which covers the collectibles industry.
Beckett Media reported on its Web site that Donruss dropped Vick's card at the behest of owner Ann Powell, whose five dogs accompany her to work every day and have virtually free reign inside the company's headquarters.
"If anybody who knows about the current Vick situation knows Donruss, they know that this is a decision we had to make because
of Ann and her love of dogs," company spokesman Scott Prusha told
the Web site. "This decision came straight from Ann."
Donruss had an autograph agreement with Vick, and much of the company's plans for the remainder of the year included the insertion of both autograph and memorabilia cards bearing the quarterback's picture.
Prusha said that "wasn't even a consideration. We met as a
company and the idea was brought up to pull him. There was no
opposition from anybody in the room."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.