DoT partnership with NFL still on

Despite Michael Vick’s legal troubles causing the cancellation of the airing of the NFL Quarterback Challenge filmed here in May, the Department of Tourism will continue its partnership with the National Football League.

The DoT agreed to pay more than US$2.2 million to host the Quarterback Challenge for three years, which included US$700,000 this year.

The programme was schedule to air on ESPN 3 August, with several additional airing afterwards.

However, Quarterback Challenge participant Michael Vick’s indictment for allegedly heading up an illegal dog-fighting ring – and the public backlash arising from it – caused the NFL to cancel the airing of the programme.

The DoT is negotiating with the NFL for alternative value for the money it has paid out so far. Regardless, Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford said the partnership would forge ahead.

‘We certainly intend to continue this relationship going forward,’ he said at the Cabinet press briefing last Friday.

Mr. Clifford said the $700,000 due for this year’s Quarterback Challenge has not been fully paid out, but he could not say off hand how much had been paid.

The negotiations with the NFL could go a number of ways.

‘We could be looking at a combination of a refund and alternative considerations,’ Mr. Clifford said, adding that one of those alternatives could include some sort of marketing presence at the 2008 Super Bowl.

The NFL Super Bowl is one of the most expensive events for advertisers. Last year, the Super Bowl aired on CBS, which charged US$2.6 million for a 30-second television commercial.

Mr. Clifford acknowledged that the DoT was aware of Vick’s trouble with the law before he came to Cayman for the 19 May event. Several weeks earlier, police had raided a Virginia house owned by Vick as part of a drug investigation and found the evidence of dog-fighting, including more than 60 pit bull terriers. Some of the pit bulls showed scars consistent with dog fighting.

Mr. Clifford declined to say anything derogatory about Vick, but he did acknowledge that his indictment had affected his value to sponsors.

‘It’s important that we recognise the presumption of innocence here,’ he said. ‘The man hasn’t been convicted of anything yet.’

Mr. Clifford said he was confident the DoT would be able to negotiate a deal to the satisfaction of all involved.

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