Shoe Drops: Nike Halts Vick Sneaker Release

Shoe and sportswear giant Nike announced Thursday that the company would suspend the release of Michael Vick's new shoe -- the Air Zoom Vick V -- but would keep its endorsement contract with the football star pending the legal resolution of his case.

"Nike is concerned by the serious and highly disturbing allegations made against Michael Vick, and we considered any cruelty to animals inhumane and abhorrent," the company said in a statement.

"We do believe that Michael Vick be afforded the same due process as any citizen; therefore, we have not terminated our relationship," the statement continues. "We have, however, made the decision to suspend the release of the Zoom Vick V and related marketing communications."

Wednesday Brian Facchini, a spokesman for Nike, would not say exactly what the company planned to do, if anything, in light of the formal charges now filed against its spokesman.

The federal indictment alleging Vick's participation in organized dogfighting raised new questions about the athlete's marketability and future as a corporate pitchman.

The athletic quarterback has been a moneyed man off the field since he went No. 1 to the Atlanta Falcons in the 2001 NFL draft, inking a string of lucrative endorsement deals with major corporate sponsors. The sponsorship money is in addition to his 10-year, $130 million contract that makes him the highest-paid player in football.

Wayne Pacelle, the president of the Humane Society of the United States, sent Nike CEO Mark Parker a letter in June imploring the shoe and sportswear giant to severe ties with Vick.

"We recognize that Mr. Vick has not been charged with a crime," Pacelle wrote June 18. "But we know that Nike has high standards for its spokespersons, and we urge Nike to terminate its relationship as soon as possible."

At the time, Nike declined the request, announcing instead that the company would honor its multimillion dollar contract with Vick.

"There is no change in the status of the agreement between Nike and football player Michael Vick," a Nike spokesman told The Associated Press at the time.

"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," the spokesman said.

Tuesday's indictment, however, renewed the Humane Society's efforts to pressure Nike -- and any other companies associated with Vick -- to end their deals with the star.

With the suspended sneaker release, the company took a similar approach to the Vick indictment as the NFL, which for now has said that he will be allowed to play in the 2007 season. The Falcons quarterback is expected in court on July 26, the same day the team reports to training camp.

Rawlings, another athletic gear company that calls Vick a spokesman, didn't respond to a message left by ABC News.

Even before Vick's direct involvement in the probe, his ownership of the Virginia house raided by authorities where dogfighting evidence was discovered -- and public outcry -- helped pressure AirTran Airways to opt out of renewing an endorsement deal with Vick.

Eric Dezenhall, a crisis management consultant, said that Vick's future as a pitchman may vary depending on respective corporate profiles.

"Whenever you have something that is viscerally offensive, there is pressure on companies to do something," Dezenhall said. "If a company's considered on the cultural cutting edge, like Nike, you might stand by a controversial person just because of street cred."

There's also no reason for companies to rush to dump Vick, Dezenhall added. That could change, however, if consumers are exposed to specific images or videos showing Vick and dogs involved in the blood sport, or if public sentiment against the NFL star becomes overwhelming.

Corporate spokesmen for Kraft Foods and Coca-Cola, meanwhile, distanced themselves from former promotions that featured Vick.

"There's been a lot we've been correcting all day long," said Laurie Guzzinati, a spokeswoman for Kraft, for which Vick did a promotion during the 2005 season that has since ended.

The message was the same at Coca-Cola, where Susan Stribling said the cola giant -- as well as Powerade, the company's sports drink product -- are no longer under contract with Vick, despite the athlete showing logos for both beverages on the official Mike Vick Web site. Stribling said that Coca-Cola was trying to determine who owned the site so the logos could be stripped.