While Vick is still with Nike, it turns out that the airline dumped him as a pitchman at the end of May. AirTran spokesman Tad Hutcheson told the AP on Wednesday that the company decided to go in a different direction, and we elected not to renew Mr. Vick's contract." AirTran did not release a press statement at the time, although some Atlanta media outlets did report the airline's decision.
For the record, Mr. Hutcheson is the same AirTran official who chuckled when Vick got into trouble earlier this year at Miami International Airport, trying to take a water bottle (with a hidden compartment) onto an AirTran flight. "At least he wasn't boarding a Delta flight," observed Hutcheson, who said the airline was "very pleased" with Vick's endorsement.
But AirTran apparently became very displeased in the weeks that followed, and quietly dropped Vick when his contract expired. The decision came about a month after authorities first searched the quarterback's home in Virginia, and uncovered evidence that Vick was involved in dog-fighting. AirTran is now using other Falcons' players to promote the airline. So much for that "different" direction.
Meanwhile, Vick still has an endorsement deal with Nike--at least for now. In an e-mail to the AP, a company spokesman said that Nike is aware of the indictment and "reviewing the information." The Oregon-based sportswear giant offers a line of shoes in Vick's name, and sells jerseys and shirts emblazoned with the quarterback's name and familiar number "7."
As the AP notes, Nike has a history of sticking by controversial athletes. The company honored a multi-million dollar endorsement deal with Los Angeles Laker star Kobe Bryant, although he disappeared from Nike advertising for two years after an arrest on sexual assault charges.
Mr. Vick is going to be busy in the coming weeks, with a scheduled arraignment in Richmond, the start of training camp, and a possible meeting with senior NFL officials. Between those engagements, he might consider hopping a Delta flight and heading for Beaverton, Oregon, for a little ring-kissing session with Phil Knight. By our count, Nike is Michael Vick's last friend in the corporate world, although the company can't be proud of its association with an accused dog-killer.
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