Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

Nike: Drop Michael Vick Right Now

Michael Vick

When activist organizations ask for a shoe and apparel company to drop athletes before the legal process has seen them through, I usually don't agree. The main reason I stand up for these companies is that it's good for business to ride it out. People forget and if you have an athlete who is acquitted of charges who is a big star, they will prove they can sell again.

Nike handled the situation perfectly with Kobe Bryant. They signed him. The sexual assault charges came. They waited. The criminal charges were dropped. The civil case was settled. Then they began using Bryant again.And it has been good for business. Kobe might be the league's most dynamic player and he does sell shoes. It's why they recently re-signed him.

But Michael Vick will never be used in association with Nike ever again. That's whether he's innocent or guilty of the charges brought before him. That being said, why would Nike stick by him? I know, it's about the message it sends. The guy is not guilty and here they are convicting him if they drop him. Except for the simple fact that--whether it's right or not--the message that is coming out now is: This guy is accused of killing dogs and Nike is standing by him.

Nike has suspended the release of the Vick V shoe, which was scheduled to come out Aug. 23. That shoe, I predict, will never come out and sources tell me that will cost Nike a measly $1.5 million in revenue. I would normally say that this would be enough. Hey, I was the guy who came out and said that they should just quietly come out with the shoe!I'm not being hypocritical here, I 've just seen the tremendous force this has become.

I'm not sure why--maybe because many people have dogs and people can't always relate to murder victims--but if you're associated with murdering dogs the general public seems to think it to be worse than being associated with murdering people.

I'm sure Nike wants to make its own decision. I'm sure they don't want to be seen as buckling under the pressure of PETA, which has begun protesting in front of their Niketowns. But I think Nike should also remember its history. Years ago, Nike was blitzed by activists who slammed their overseas workplace conditions. By most accounts, Nike did an unbelievable job and totally turned it around. Today, Nike wins awards for their disclosure of factory conditions. Why did Nike make that turnaround? Because their executives smartly believed that the cheaper cost of unsavory workplace conditions wasn't worth the hit the brand was taking. That's how they should look at Michael Vick.

Are they convicting Vick by dropping him? No. I would handle the news release by sending the press a one-liner that simply said that Nike had severed the contract of Michael Vick. That's it. That's enough of a statement. Don't make any other further comment. The fact that you severed the contract is enough of a statement. If it turns out that he's not guilty of the charges and at some point Nike officials want to explain the decision, they should just say that it was a strictly business decision. Bottom line? Michael Vick wasn't an effective spokesperson any more. He couldn't help them sell shoes. Nike doesn't really owe Vick the due process that the court system owes him.

I don't envy the position Nike is in. Had I been a top executive at Nike, I would not have thought about dumping Vick until earlier this week. But now I think there's no choice. Whether the pressure fades away or not in the coming weeks, it does not pay to stick by his side. Now I wonder if they could sign a deal with Kevin Harvick so that they could take some sharper to those Vick V's sitting in the warehouse, put an "HAR" in front of "VICK" and make a NASCAR cross trainer.

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