NEW YORK (Reuters) - Athletic apparel maker Reebok said on Friday it is suspending sales of jerseys of National Football League star Michael Vick, who has been accused of sponsoring a dog-fighting operation.
“While we respect the legal process, we find the allegations against Mr. Vick too disturbing to ignore,” said Reebok, a division of Germany’s Adidas AG, in a statement.
This is the first time Reebok has decided to suspend sales of products associated with an athlete due to the athlete’s offensive behavior, company spokeswoman Denise Kaigler said.
Vick, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback who was the top pick in the 2001 NFL draft, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to a federal charges he and three associates were involved in a dog- fighting venture.
Vick and the three others were engaged in a dog-fighting enterprise known as “Bad Newz Kennels” from early 2001 through April 2007, according to an 18-page indictment.
Dogs sometimes fought to the death on Vick’s property. The indictment stated that either Vick or one of his associates killed losing or underperforming dogs by electrocution, hanging, drowning or slamming them to the ground.
The judge set a November 26 trial date, which falls in the middle of the 2007 NFL football season.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell this week suspended Vick and ordered him not to attend preseason training, pending the league’s review of his case.
Athletic apparel maker Nike Inc said in a July 19 statement that it would delay the release of Vick’s fifth signature shoe, the “Zoom Vick V,” which was to be shipped to stores on August 1.
In the statement, Nike said it “is concerned by the serious and highly disturbing allegations made against Michael Vick, and we consider any cruelty to animals inhumane and abhorrent.”
But the company also said: “Michael Vick should be afforded the same due process as any citizen. Therefore, we have not terminated our relationship. We have, however, made the decision to suspend the release of the Zoom Vick V.”
Reebok does not have a separate marketing relationship with Vick, but it is the official supplier of all National Football League apparel and equipment, according to the statement.
Reebok could not be immediately reached for additional comment.
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