Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD), whose name has been synonymous with the NFL for decades, is criticizing how the overseers of the most popular U.S. professional sport have handled a series of recent controversies.
"We are not yet satisfied with the league's handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code," the company said in a statement late Tuesday. "We have shared our concerns and expectations with the league."
Although the beer giant didn't specify what behaviors it was referring to, the company appeared to be alluding to former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice and the Minnesota Viking's Adrian Peterson.
"We understand," said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy. "We are taking action and there will be much more to come."
McCarthy wasn't more specific. An Anhueser-Busch spokesman couldn't immediately be reached.
Rice was suspended indefinitely by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after a videotape surfaced showing him punching his fiancée Janay Palmer in the elevator of a Atlantic City casino. Goodell was roundly criticized for only suspending the former Baltimore Raven for two games when they emerged earlier this year. Rice, who later married Palmer, is appealing Goodell's decision. He has apologized for his actions and was released by the Baltimore Ravens.
A grand jury recently indicted Peterson, who the Vikings suspended this week, for spanking his 4-year-old son with a tree branch. A Houston TV station reported yesterday that Peterson was accused of hitting another one of his young children though he wasn't charged in that incident. In a statement released earlier this week, Peterson said he was sorry for the pain that he has caused but denied he is a child abuser.
Other sponsors are also unhappy with the incidents. PepsiCo (PEP) recently issued a statement saying that "domestic violence is completely unacceptable. We are encouraged to see the NFL is now treating this with the seriousness it deserves." Nike (NKE) and EA Sports have cut ties with Rice and Radisson Hotels suspended its limited partnership with the Vikings because of the Peterson controversy.
For now, no major corporate sponsors have walked away from the NFL.
"I think the sponsors are monitoring this, but I don't think we've seen any negative effect on the league's business to date," Irwin Raij, an attorney with Foley & Lardner specializing in sports, told USA Today.
Goodell, who has been urged to resign by critics such as ESPN's Keith Olbermann, recently named four women to guide the NFL's domestic violence policy, including the former head of New York City's sex crimes unit. About 46 percent of the NFL's fans are women.