Quarterback Challenge broadcast cancelled

American National Football League Quarterback Michael Vick’s trouble with the law has affected the Cayman Islands.

Because Vick is facing federal criminal charges for allegedly heading an illegal dog-fighting ring in the US, the NFL cancelled last Friday’ scheduled ESPN network airing of the taped DIRECTV NFL Quarterback Challenge. The event took place here on Grand Cayman on 19 May at the Cayman International School playing field.

Peter Murray, the NFL’s senior vice president of partnership marketing, said the NFL was disappointed it had to make the decision.

‘But it is appropriate under the circumstances,’ he said.

The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism entered into a three-year contract with the NFL to host the Quarterback Challenge. The price to host the 2007 event was US$700,000, with 10 per cent price increases over the next two years. In total, the DoT will pay more than US$2.2 million to host the event over three years.

Director of Tourism Pilar Bush met with NFL representatives last week and concurred with the decision.

‘It is the obligation of the Department of Tourism on behalf of the Government to manage and protect the Cayman Islands brand, and in that context, we have not objected to the NFL’s decision to cancel the 2007 QBC,’ she said.

Vick’s reputation slipped further last week when one of his co-defendants in the case pled guilty and said the dog fighting operation, known as Bad Newz Kennels, was funded exclusively by Vick. The co-defendant, who will ultimately testify against Vick, also said that underperforming dogs were executed, sometimes in brutal ways.

As a result of the charges, Vick has lost endorsement contracts with Nike, Rebock and Rawlings, and also had his collectable playing card pulled by Donruss and Upper Deck. Two major animal rights organisations, PETA and the Humane Society, have helped stage protests about Vick.

The NFL has banned Vick from attending training camp with his Atlanta Falcon’s team.

Friday’s airing of the QBC was to be the first of several airings of the programme, but it is now questionable the event – which was won by Oakland Raiders quarterback Josh McCown – will ever be shown.

‘All scheduled airings are cancelled at this time,’ said Tourism Director Bush. It is unknown if the event would ever be aired if Vick were ultimately acquitted at the trial, which is slated to commence on 26 November.

Besides the federal charges, however, Vick is likely to face state charges in Virginia.

The DoT is discussing with the NFL ways to secure marketing and promotions programmes equivalent in value to the 2007 deal.

‘The NFL has been a strong partner to date and we are optimistic about the outcome of negotiations,’ said Ms Bush.

Because the negotiations were ongoing, Ms Bush declined to give any specifics about the discussion, including whether simply extending the arrangement by one year was an option.

Ms Bush also declined to say whether any or all of the US$700,000 due for hosting the 2007 QBC has been paid yet.

Vick’s possible involvement in the dog fighting ring was revealed several weeks before the QBC took place. On 25 April, police, as part of a drug investigation, raided a home in Virginia owned by Vick and found evidence of dog fighting, including more than 60 pit bull terriers. Some of pit bulls showed scars typical of dog fighting.

Michael Vick at the NFL Quarterback Challenge on Grand Cayman in May. Photo: Tammie C. Chisholm

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