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It will be difficult to find a Vick jersey

Nike suspends sales of the quarterback's apparel and shoes. Reebok will take back unsold jerseys.

July 28, 2007|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

Nike just did it. And so did Reebok.

Under intense pressure from animal-rights groups, Nike Inc. and Reebok International Ltd. suspended sales of Michael Vick signature shoes and apparel Friday, the latest setback for the Atlanta Falcons quarterback embroiled in a dogfighting scandal.

The NFL, which has ordered Vick not to report to training camp, said it has pulled all Vick-related items from NFLShop.com. Donruss, one of four major trading-card companies, announced it was pulling Vick's likeness from any new packs.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which had planned to picket Niketown stores next week, has called off those protests after receiving assurances from the company that it has stopped paying Vick pending the outcome of his trial, scheduled to begin Nov. 26.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday August 02, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 43 words Type of Material: Correction
NFL: An article in Saturday's Sports section reported that Reebok International Ltd. had suspended sales of quarterback Michael Vick's jerseys under pressure from animal-rights groups. Reebok was not pressured by outside groups and made the decision on its own, a company spokeswoman said.

In a written statement, Nike spokesman Dean Stoyer called the allegations "serious and highly disturbing" but noted the shoe giant is not prepared to sever all ties with Vick.

"We do believe that Michael Vick should be afforded the same due process as any citizen in the United States, therefore, we have not terminated our relationship," he said.

The news came a day after Vick and three co-defendants pleaded not guilty to federal charges related to illegal dogfighting. The quarterback reportedly was paid $7 million in sponsorship deals last year.

Dan Shannon, PETA's assistant director of campaigns, said the group was "very excited" about Friday's development and is now asking the NFL to suspend Vick at least until his trial is over.

"Nike saw which way the wind was blowing," he said. "On one hand, it was a smart business move. But it also sends a message."

Reebok does not have a business relationship directly with Vick but is the official supplier of apparel and equipment to all 32 NFL teams. The company said it was willing to take back any unsold Vick jerseys that are returned by retail outlets.

"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 thing to do."

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, called Nike the "last big holdout," and said the company "made the right move as a responsible corporate citizen by cutting off Vick."

Pacelle said he cannot envision Vick ever getting another sponsorship deal, especially if he's convicted.

"If that happens, he'll be radioactive," he said. "He's pretty close to radioactive now."

Not everyone is prepared to abandon Vick, however. About 90 people gathered at a community center Friday in his hometown of Newport News, Va., in a show of support for him. The event was billed as "A Community Hug for Michael Vick."

"We've got a young man who has risen to great heights," the Rev. Marcellus Harris, who helped organize the gathering, told the Newport News Daily Press. "If America can dump him, they can dump any one of us."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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