Anheuser-Busch Issues Statement on NFL Sponsorship

On the heels of what may go down as the worst week in the history of the National Football League (NFL), one of its largest sponsors, Anheuser-Busch (A-B), is speaking out.

A-B issued a statement Tuesday expressing concern over the NFL’s handling of recent off-field incidents involving active players who are alleged to have abused women and children.

“We are disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season,” the statement read. “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.”

This month, two prominent NFL players — Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson — made headlines for separate incidents of domestic violence.

Early last week, Rice, a star running back for the Baltimore Ravens, was cut after surveillance video surfaced of the star punching his then-fiancé in an elevator.

Just days later, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was arrested on charges of reckless and negligent injury to a child. The Vikings held Peterson out of Sunday’s contest against the New England Patriots, but reinstated him on Monday morning.

Other players, including Carolina Panthers’ Greg Hardy and San Francisco 49ers’ Ray McDonald, are also facing domestic abuse charges.

In the wake of those incidents, a number of prominent NFL sponsors are lashing out.

Radisson Hotels logo announced Monday that it would suspend its sponsorship of the Vikings, which held a press conference in front of a backdrop featuring the company’s logo.

“Radisson takes this matter very seriously particularly in light of our long-standing commitment to the protection of children,” the company wrote. “We are closely following the situation and effective immediately, Radisson is suspending its limited sponsorship of the Minnesota Vikings while we evaluate the facts and circumstances.”

CoverGirl, which sells a variety of female beauty products, didn’t go so far as to drop its sponsorship of the NFL, but also issued its own statement regarding the NFL’s domestic violence issues.

“As a brand that has always supported women and stood for female empowerment, COVERGIRL believes domestic violence is completely unacceptable,” the company wrote on its Facebook page. “We developed our NFL program to celebrate the more than 80 million female football fans. In light of recent events, we have encouraged the NFL to take swift action on their path forward to address the issue of domestic violence.”

But neither of those sponsors wields the kind of power that Anheuser-Busch does. A-B InBev, the world’s largest brewer, signed a six-year, $1.2 billion deal with the league in 2011, and in the last five years the company has spent more than any other league sponsor on Super Bowl advertising.

While it’s unlikely that the company would pull its sponsorship of the NFL, it has forced the league to immediately issue its own response. ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported that the NFL has responded to the company with the following statement:

“We understand. We are taking action & there will be much more to come.”