AirTran parts ways with Vick after off-field incidents

Updated: May 31, 2007, 9:45 PM ET
Associated Press

ATLANTA -- AirTran Airways has ended its relationship with Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, who has been a pitchman for the airline since 2004, but whose image has been tarnished in several off-field incidents.

"Michael's contract expired May 8, and we advised him then that we would not renew it," AirTran spokesman Tad Hutcheson said Thursday.

Hutcheson said Vick had appeared on five billboards and did radio commercials under a one-year contract, which had been renewed twice before. He said AirTran has Falcons running back Warrick Dunn under contract, and other sports celebrities in other cities.

Most recently, Vick's name has been dragged into a Virginia investigation of dog fighting after authorities confiscated dozens of dogs at property owned by Vick and said they found evidence related to fighting.

Among Vick's other publicity problems, he was sued by a woman who claimed he gave her herpes, he made an obscene gesture to spectators while leaving the field after a game, and security screeners at the Miami airport stopped him from boarding an AirTran flight in January with a water bottle that turned out to have a hidden compartment. Vick said he used it to store jewelry, and police found no evidence of smuggled drugs.

Especially stinging to AirTran, though, was that Vick's publicist blamed the airline when the quarterback known for his quickness failed to arrive in Washington to speak before Congress. AirTran said Vick had ample opportunities to get to his destination on AirTran but chose not to.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press