Days after Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was indicted for allegedly being involved in a dog-fighting operation, Hip-Hop mogul Russell Simmons is putting those associated with the star player on notice, while Nike has suspended the release of an upcoming football sneaker endorsed by Vick due to the allegations.
Simmons, along with the Rev. Al Sharpton and Ingrid E. Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), sent a joint letter condemning dog-fighting and other forms of violence to Vicks corporate sponsors --- including Nike, Rawlings, Hasbro, Coca-Cola, Easton Sports, and Kraft --- yesterday (July 18).
"The recent media spotlight on dog-fighting reminds us of society's callous disregard for the suffering of animals and disrespect for sentient beings," the trio wrote. "We hope that Mr. Vick is not a product of this insensitivity that runs through our society. . . . It does us little good to prosecute just those who are famous and allow people across the country to continue to commit these hideous crimes.
The pressure appears be working.
Today (July 19), Nike announced that it was suspending the release of th eNike Air Zoom Vick V football shoe, which was scheduled for a late August release.
"Nike is concerned by the serious and highly disturbing allegations made against Michael Vick and we consider any cruelty to animals inhumane and abhorrent," Nike said in a statement. "We do believe that Michael Vick should be afforded the same due process as any citizen; therefore we have not terminated our relationship."
The shelving of Vick's shoe comes on the heels of his indictment on Tuesday (July 17) by a federal grand jury.
The quarterback and three others were indicted for allegedly running a dog-fighting operation from Vicks home in Virginia.
The 18-page indictment alleges Vick and the group bet on dog fights and dealt with dogs who performed poorly by fatally hanging, drowning and slamming them against the ground.
Authorities raided Vicks Surry County property and reportedly found 70 dogs including at least 60 pit bulls and paraphernalia commonly associated with dog-fighting.
Some of the animals reportedly had deep wounds and cuts consistent with fighting.
Despite the conditions of its personal conduct policy, top NFL officials and the NFL players union will let the legal process determine the facts of the case and Vick will continue to play.
"It's unfortunate that Michael Vick is in this position, as these allegations are extremely disturbing and offensive," the union said in a statement. "This case is now in the hands of the judicial system, and we have to allow the legal process to run its course. However, we recognize Michael still has the right to prove his innocence. Hopefully, these allegations are untrue and Michael will be able to continue his NFL career."
While the NFL and the Falcons deal with the fall out from the Vick situation, Simmons, Sharpton and Newkirk are hopeful that authorities will take the appropriate action against anyone found guilty of an atrocity as serious as dogfighting.
Today, we sound a clarion call to all people: Stand up for what is right, and speak out against what is wrong, the trio urged in the joint letter. Dogfighting is unacceptable. Hurting animals for human pleasure or gain is despicable. Cruelty is just plain wrong."
Vicks next court appearance is scheduled for July 26 at a bond hearing and an arraignment in Richmond.
The hearing will take place the same day the Falcons open their training camp, causing Vick to miss the first practice of the pre-season.
A conviction for Vick would carry up to six years in prison as well as fines of $350,000 and restitution.