FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (June 19, 2007) -- Nike has no plans to dump Michael Vick from its roster of celebrity athletes, turning aside a request from the national Humane Society to cut ties with the Atlanta Falcons quarterback over alleged ties to dogfighting.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, released a letter that he sent to the apparel giant.
"We trust that Nike does not want to be associated with any celebrity who is linked to this odious form of animal cruelty," Pacelle wrote.
Nike spokesman Dean Stoyer said the company planned to honor its lucrative deal with Vick, who worked with the company to design a line of athletic shoes and has been used prominently in advertising campaigns.
"There is no change in the status of the agreement between Nike and football player Michael Vick," Stoyer said. "He is rightfully presumed innocent and afforded the same due process as any citizen, rather than be tried in the court of public opinion. Nike will continue to monitor the situation, but has nothing further to say at this time."
During an April 25 raid on a Virginia home owned by Vick, authorities seized 66 animals, most of them pit bulls, and equipment that suggested they were being used in a dogfighting operation.
Vick, a registered dog breeder, has claimed he rarely visited the home and was unaware it could be involved in a criminal enterprise. He blamed relatives for taking advantage of his generosity.
But authorities say they've been told that Vick was involved in dogfighting, and federal investigators searched the property this month. No charges have been filed.
"We recognize that Mr. Vick has not been charged with a crime," Pacelle wrote in his letter. "But we know that Nike has high standards for its spokespersons."
The Humane Society already called on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to punish Vick if criminal charges are filed against the quarterback.
Goodell met with Vick during the NFL draft and league investigators are looking into the case to determine whether disciplinary action is warranted. The new commissioner has made player conduct one of his top priorities, already giving Pacman Jones a one-year suspension and barring Tank Johnson and Chris Henry from the first half of the upcoming season.
In the letter to Nike, Pacelle noted that AirTran Airways ended its relationship with Vick in May. The quarterback had been a pitchman for the airline since 2004, doing radio ads and billboard advertising, but Vick's reputation was tarnished by the dogfighting case and other embarrassing incidents.
"At the very least, Mr. Vick was not vigilant enough and an unacceptable situation developed on one of his properties," Pacelle wrote. "It remains to be seen whether all the personal accounts and information about his role in dogfighting are sufficient to connect Mr. Vick to the alleged dogfighting operation."
The Associated Press News Service
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