Retailer pulls Michael Vick jerseys in Ga. stores

BRUNSWICK, Ga. - A retail chain quickly pulled replicas of Michael Vick's jersey from its Georgia stores after getting complaints from animal rights groups.

Florida-based Bealls Outlet Stores apologized in an e-mail to a Georgia Humane Society leader and said the jerseys were stocked by mistake.

Vick, the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback, is serving a 23-month federal prison sentence in Leavenworth, Kan., after pleading guilty last year to participating in a dogfighting ring. He pleaded guilty last month to a state charge of promoting dogfighting at a home and kennel he owned in Virginia, where underperforming fighting dogs were killed.

Hannah Tostensen, director of the Humane Society of South Coastal Georgia, and Lisa Norton, president of Citizens for Humane Animal Treatment in Brunswick, complained to Bealls' corporate office in Bradenton, Fla., earlier this month after finding replicas of Vick's No. 7 jersey being sold at stores in Darien and Waycross in southeast Georgia.

"It is unfathomable to me that any reputable store would market an item that symbolizes the heinous crime of dogfighting," Tostensen wrote in an e-mail to Bealls.

Norton, who found the Vick jerseys at a Bealls store in Waycross, said the retailer acted quickly and responsibly by pulling the jerseys from its stores.

Bealls, which has stores in 29 Georgia cities, apologized by e-mail to Tostensen, The Brunswick News reported Monday.

"We are very sorry that some of our stores were carrying Michael Vick jerseys," Bealls spokeswoman Barbara Tucker wrote. "As a company, we do not support Michael Vick in any way."

Tucker said the retailer had ordered an assortment of Atlanta Falcons jerseys with "specific instructions" to the vendor not to ship any Vick jerseys. She said the vendor shipped the Vick jerseys anyway and stores displayed them by mistake.

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