Updates from Wednesday, Sept. 17
Darren Rovell of ESPN updated Nike's relationship with Adrian Peterson:
Rovell later reported that another company, Hyperice, is ending its relationship with Peterson as well:
With public outcry over the NFL's handling (or lack thereof) of off-the-field violence by its players reaching an apex, sponsors have begun using a language the league office is sure to understand: cash flow.
ESPN's Darren Rovell passed along a strongly worded statement from Anheuser-Busch that insinuates the beer giant is reevaluating its relationship with the league:
That statement comes on the heels of strong measures taken by Radisson and Nike in the wake of child-abuse allegations against Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Radisson, a hotel chain that had a limited sponsorship deal with the franchise, became the first to suspend its partnership with the NFL during the controversy.
"Radisson takes this matter very seriously particularly in light of our long-standing commitment to the protection of children," read a statement sent to Rovell. "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."
Nike took a similar stand Tuesday, removing all Peterson jerseys from its stores in the Twin City area, per Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press:
Nike secured the NFL's apparel license in 2010 for $1.1 billion after an intense bidding war with Reebok and Under Armour. ESPN's Ed Werder noted that Anheuser-Busch stands to pay the league $1.2 billion over its current six-year deal.
While neither international conglomerate has backed out of its deal with the league, it's telling that both companies are taking these bold steps at a time when public support for the NFL has never been lower.
The Star Tribune's Master Tesfatsion added another development regarding the Vikings and St. Joseph's Home for Children in light of the Peterson fallout:
The Vikings reactivated the 29-year-old Peterson on Monday, two days after he was officially booked on a child-abuse charge related to a corporal punishment he administered to his four-year-old son in May.
Minnesota had deactivated Peterson—meaning he was paid but not in uniform—for Sunday's 30-7 loss to the New England Patriots. In a statement announcing Peterson's reinstatement, Vikings owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf indicated the organization would allow the legal process to dictate what happens going forward:
To be clear, we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child. At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action. This is a difficult path to navigate, and our focus is on doing the right thing. Currently we believe we are at a juncture where the most appropriate next step is to allow the judicial process to move forward.
The 2012 NFL MVP also released a lengthy statement on Monday, apologizing for his actions but denying allegations that he is a child abuser:
Peterson's case came to light just days after TMZ released a graphic video featuring former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee (now-wife) Janay Palmer. The NFL, which had initially suspended Rice for two games before TMZ posted the video, suspended him indefinitely after the Ravens released him outright.
The NFL Players Association is expected to appeal Rice's suspension, per Barry Wilner of the Associated Press. Bleacher Report's Jason Cole suggests the NFLPA may argue Rice is a victim of double jeopardy. In the days since the video's release, there has been conflicting information regarding the Rice case about what the NFL knew and when.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, whose job status has become increasingly tenuous over the last couple of weeks, has maintained no one in the league office saw the second video, which features Rice striking Palmer with his fist and knocking her unconscious. Rob Maaddi of the AP has since countered Goodell's claims, saying a law enforcement source sent the NFL the video and a woman from the office described it as "terrible."
Additionally, the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers have been criticized for their handling of players accused or convicted of domestic abuse. The Panthers deactivated defensive end Greg Hardy after allowing him to play in Week 1. Meanwhile, 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald, who has not yet been charged in his case, has played each of the first two weeks.
More details will be uncovered in the coming weeks, as the NFL undergoes an independent investigation of the Rice incident. But with off-the-field issues creating more conversation than the on-field play, it's safe to say the NFL is on shaky ground with some of its biggest sponsors.
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