ATLANTA — Michael Vick’s legal troubles prompted Nike on Thursday to suspend the release of its latest product line named after the Atlanta Falcons quarterback.
Nike has told retailers it will not release a fifth signature shoe, the Air Zoom Vick V, this summer. Nike spokesman Dean Stoyer said the four shoe products and three shirts that currently bear Vick’s name will remain in stores.
Vick will be arraigned next week in a Richmond, Va., federal courtroom on charges of sponsoring a gruesome dogfighting operation.
Meanwhile, Falcons owner Arthur Blank issued a statement Thursday, saying the organization is “working diligently on exploring our options.”
“This is an emotionally charged and complicated matter,” Blank said. “There are a wide range of interests and legal issues that need to be carefully considered as we move ahead, including our need to respect the due process that Michael is entitled to. Also, this situation affects everyone — our club, our players and associates, our sponsors, our fans and the Atlanta community among them — so we must consider all of our customers in making any decisions.
“Given the differing perspectives and strong feelings around this issue, we probably won’t make everyone happy, but we are committed to doing the right thing. As the owner of this club that’s, ultimately, my responsibility.”
Blank added that he was “saddened and distressed about this — not for myself, for our fans and community who have been so loyal to us.”
ESPN reported that Vick had called Blank on Wednesday. The network said its sources believed Vick to have been contrite, and he apologized for the distractions the case has created, and thanked Blank for his support.
Stoyer said Nike still has a standing contract with Vick, but declined to speculate on his future with the company.
A statement released by Nike Inc. said the company “is concerned by the serious and highly disturbing allegations made against Michael Vick, and we consider any cruelty to animals inhumane and abhorrent. We do believe that Michael Vick should be afforded the same due process as any citizen; therefore, we have not terminated our relationship.”
Stoyer, who declined to discuss terms of Vick’s contract, indicated the company has no commercials or documentaries planned with the three-time NFL Pro Bowl selection.
In previous years, Nike has run footage and interviews with Vick on its Web site, but none of the video promotions are currently posted.
“Some of that was shown on a limited run based on rights and usage,” Stoyer said. “There’s nothing new planned.”
The Humane Society of the United States issued a statement calling upon Nike to pull its Vick clothing and shoes from retailers and from its web site. It also called upon NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend Vick.
Vick signed his current contract with Nike in 2001, the same year Atlanta chose him as the NFL’s No. 1 overall draft pick. After leading the Falcons to the 2002 and ’04 playoffs, Vick last year became the first quarterback in league history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
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