A-B takes stand on NFL conduct
Brewer critical of handling of domestic violence issue
Anheuser-Busch, a leading sponsor of the National Football League, has added its voice to those concerned by the league’s recent fumbling of domestic violence incidents involving its players.
The NFL, by far and away the most popular professional sports league in the United States, with the annual climax to its season, the Super Bowl, watched by tens of millions of Americans. But in recent weeks the league’s reputation has been tarnished by having teams hand out limited suspensions of players for spousal and child abuse incidents.
Public outcry has forced teams to backtrack, handing out stiffer penalties, at least until the player’s legal issues are resolved. In the already infamous instance of Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice, whose filmed battering of his then fiancée in a casino elevator became public, an initial two game ban by the team was later stiffened by the league head office to an indefinite suspension.
All of which has left Anheuser-Busch, which in 2011 reportedly signed six-year, $1.2 billion sponsorship contract with the NFL, “disappointed and increasingly concerned” about the situation.
In an unusually strongly worded statement released this week, Anheuser-Bush commented, “We are disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season. We are not yet satisfied with the league’s handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code. We have shared our concerns and expectations with the league.”
There’s no indication as yet, at least publically, if A-B’s dissatisfaction will lead to it reducing or terminating its relationship with the league. American cable sports network ESPN has reported that it could unilaterally end the agreement if a league-wide event brings the NFL into national disrepute.
Anheuser-Busch is not the only NFL sponsor to have spoken out over the NFL’s stance on domestic violence. McDonald’s, Visa and the Campbell Soup Co have also been publically critical, while Radisson Hotels has terminated its sponsorship of the Minnesota Vikings following a domestic violence incident involving one of its players.
While sponsors have taken a stand against the NFL’s handling of the situation to date, it appears that the general public is less concerned. A national NBC News/Marist poll released yesterday found that nearly 90% of Americans say that the recent outcry over domestic violence in the NFL won’t change how much professional football that they watch.
Image is Anheuser-Busch InBev®