Vick's Shoe Deal Survives Dogfighting Charges

Michael Vick of the National Football League's Atlanta Falcons is one of four men accused of a role in an illegal dogfighting ring. Endorser Nike says it will continue its deal with Vick, but will delay the release of a new shoe.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Whether you favor him or not, you can count on Senator Robert Byrd to seize the drama of a moment. And that remained true when Byrd stepped in the Senate floor yesterday to respond to allegations of dogfighting.

Senator ROBERT BYRD (Democrat, West Virginia): Barbaric. Barbaric. Let that word resound from hill to hill, and from mountain to mountain, from valley to valley.

INSKEEP: The word that resounded this week was the indictment of a pro football star. Michael Vick is one of four men accused of taking part in illegal fights. Dogs were allegedly killed inside and outside those fights. And the investigation targeted a man famous enough to have his own line of shoes - at least he does for now.

Nike says it will continue its endorsement deal Michael Vick. A company spokesman says Vick should get the same due process as any citizen. All the same, the company says it will delay the release of a shoe named after the Falcon's quarterback.

Sports columnist Jeff Schultz is tracking this story for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Mr. JEFF SCHULTZ (Atlanta Journal-Constitution): Anybody who knows it isn't about marketing or endorsements or selling shoes knows it has nothing to do with whether a guy is innocent or guilty in a court of law. It's all about whether someone could sell shoes or not.

INSKEEP: Vick's future with the Atlanta Falcons may depend in part on whether he can sell tickets. Now, he has survived some past controversies, but now that he's indicted, Jeff Shultz said it's noteworthy that Vick remains on the team.

Mr. SCHULTZ: I think if this wasn't Michael Vick, if it was a backup tackle or a kicker or somebody else who didn't have either the talent or the star power, or ticket-selling ability that Michael Vick has, I think he would be gone by now.

INSKEEP: Whether it's in a shoe market or the market for tickets, the public may pass judgment on Michael Vick just as surely as the legal system does.

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