Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday, July 30, 2007

Nike more about money than morals

Nike more about money than morals

Nike more about money than morals

Editor's note: Hours after Mark Kriegel's column was written and posted, Nike announced that it was suspending the release of its Air Zoom Vick V shoe.
When asked for comment on Michael Vick's indictment as the alleged owner and impresario of a merciless dogfighting operation, Nike e-mailed the Associated Press a statement, saying that it is "reviewing the information."

In other words, Nike said nothing, did nothing. In cases like these, this is what the sneaker giant usually does. So don't be surprised. Be disappointed.
Even the NFL, which paid proper homage to due process, came out with a statement saying that the league was "disappointed that Michael Vick has put himself in a position where a federal grand jury has returned an indictment against him ... The activities alleged are cruel, degrading and illegal ..."
The Falcons, for their part, acknowledged that the organization was "disturbed by the news."
Feeling the pressure?
Nike appears to have felt some heat on the Michael Vick issue. And as a result, the company has decided to suspend the release of its Air Zoom Vick V shoe this summer.
But with the launch of the Zoom Vick V — which your kids can buy for a mere $100 — a month away, Nike is studying the situation. All of a sudden, the company that made cool a corporate art form sounds like the Pentagon. Did you really expect different?
It's not about the dogs.
It's about the shoes.
Actually, this being Nike, it's also about image. And whether Nike wants to realize it or not, Vick's has been irreparably harmed.
Not so long ago, Michael Vick was projected as the ballplayer for his time, a star whose gifts were ideally suited for the digital age. In the post-Jordan era, he played the hot position in the hot sport. There had never been a quarterback like Vick, who just may be the best athlete ever to take a snap.
One doesn't need to be a great athlete to be a great quarterback, of course. But in this age of computer-generated special effects, he had that most precious commodity: the capacity to thrill. So, after only three pro seasons, with his completion percentage at a mere 52 percent, Vick earned simulated gridiron's highest honor. His likeness was featured on the cover of Madden NFL 2004.

Michael Vick indicted
Co-defendant: Vick paid for fights
NAACP urges public restraint
Mora not sure how to feel
Upper Deck pulls Vick cards
Nike suspends Vick contract
Vick pleads not guilty to charges
Activists, fans swarm courthouse
NASCAR driver wants Vick in jail
Blank wanted to suspend Vick
Goodell tells Vick to skip camp
Vick to face no-nonsense judge
Vick indicted on dog fight charges
Read the indictment (.pdf)
Becker: More legal trouble ahead?
Kriegel: Goodell changing the rules
Czar: Vick should take year off
Kriegel: Just blew it
Vick's radio interview
Lastest on Vick's legal troubles
Will NFL sack Vick?
Vick might have taken to calling himself Superman, but Nike — whose imprimatur remains the gold standard among athletic endorsements — knew even better. Nike called him money. You may recall one of the most spectacularly produced commercials — The Michael Vick Experience — in which a young fan is strapped into a ride through which he sees, feels and hears the game through the quarterback's perspective, finally and miraculously somersaulting into the end zone.
Now Michael Vick's experience — real, not simulated — will include arraignment, a possible perpwalk, perhaps even jail time. I'm not saying Vick will do time, just that there's a chance. The case against him seems stronger than say, the sexual assault case against another Nike endorser, Kobe Bryant. That was his word against hers in a state court. And when the alleged victim backed off, the case collapsed.
This is a federal case. The feds would not go digging around Vick's property at 1915 Moonlight Road, Smithfield, Va., to make a case against Larry, Moe and Curley. Image means a lot to them, too. The feds want a star quarterback. And they wouldn't have brought the indictment if they didn't think the case against him was a very good bet.
It's a conspiracy case, though. They're generally much easier to charge than to prove. The indictment speaks of three informants. They will not be good guys; they will be vulnerable on the stand — the cruelest, most vicious dog being infinitely more sympathetic than a rat.
Still, the fact is, there is no way for Vick to win here. Even if he wins in court, the damage will be severe. A bar fight, a substance abuse problem, all of that can be dealt with. But in the public's mind, dogfighting is somewhere between wife-beating and the ultimate sin, point-shaving.



It's bad enough that Vick's career completion percentage remains at 53.8 percent, and that he finished last season out of the playoffs with the league's 20th best quarterback rating. But cruelty to dogs? That's not going to fly. That's an irredeemable sin in a country where Marley and Me has been a bestseller for the last nine-and-a-half years.
The indictment says Vick bet large sums on dogs, and that he had losers killed — electrocuted, shot, drowned, smashed against the ground. He may have even killed some himself.
More than a month ago, Vick told an Atlanta TV station: "Everywhere I go, all around the world, people still support Mike Vick. So regardless of what I go through people gonna love me."
That's the Michael Vick Experience right there, as out of touch as his biggest corporate sponsor.

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