Michael Vick Nike Contract: Pariah or Spokesperson?

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)
NEW YORK (CBS/AP) He was once a canine's worst nightmare.

Photos: Inside Dog-Fighting's Brutal World

But does reinstated NFL star Michael Vick, convicted for involvement in a dog fighting ring, have a new deal with Nike, or not?

Out of the federal penitentiary after a year-and-a-half, and back on the field with the Philadelphia Eagles, determining the quarterback's status in the endorsement game may require a referee.

Michael Vick's agent, Joel Segal, said Wednesday, "Mike has a long-standing, great relationship with Nike, and is excited to be part of the Nike team again."

Segal would not reveal terms of the agreement.

But Nike spokesman KeJuan Wilkins says that the company is "not signing a new endorsement deal" with the quarterback, but has simply "agreed to supply product to Michael Vick as we do a number of athletes who are not under contract with Nike."

"Nike does not have a contractual relationship with Michael Vick," Wilkins said.

Nike, which signed Vick as a rookie in 2001, terminated his contract in August 2007 after his plea deal on the dog fighting allegations. At the time, Nike called cruelty to animals "inhumane, abhorrent and unacceptable" and halted release of his fifth signature shoe, the Air Zoom Vick V.

Still, the renewal of ties could be viewed as the latest step forward for Vick as he seeks to rehabilitate his career and his image after serving 18 months in federal prison. On Sunday, Vick played his first regular-season game since December 2006.

(AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac, File)
Photo: One of Michael Vick's fighting dogs hides in its shelter at Best Friends animal sanctuary, north of Kanab, Utah.

"It is quite evident that athletes that run afoul of the law are by no means relegated to obscurity when it comes to pitching products," said David Carter, a professor of sports marketing at the University of Southern California.

Vick signed with the Philadelphia Eagles on Aug. 13. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell gave him his full reinstatement Sept. 3, saying he could return to the field in Week 3.

Vick participated in 11 plays, accounting for 30 total yards, in the Eagles' 34-14 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, as Philadelphia tries to use him in a variety of ways as a backup.

When Vick first signed with the Eagles, Carter had said he was "too toxic for most companies to even consider taking a chance on him." What's changed? As Carter noted Wednesday, there has been little backlash to the quarterback's return to the NFL.

Protests have been limited, and the Eagles' sponsors have stood by them. That experience could make companies less wary about adding Vick as an endorser, though the biggest determinant might be no different from any other athlete: how well he performs on the field.

Retailer Dick's Sporting Goods said earlier this month that it wasn't carrying Vick's Eagles jersey in any of its 300 stores as a business decision.

(AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Photo: State and Federal officials search the grounds behind a home owned by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in Smithfield, Va., July 6, 2007.

Vick signed a $1.6 million deal with the Eagles, with a team option for the second year at $5.2 million. He was once a corporate star, holding multimillion dollar deals to market everything from sneakers to sports drinks. But those millions are long gone.

In July, Vick filed for bankruptcy protection while serving his sentence, saying he owed between $10 million and $50 million to creditors.

Photos: Inside Dog-Fighting's Brutal World

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