NFL owners have tried to quiet controversy over players not standing for the national anthem, but there is growing evidence time is running out for them to do so without sustaining significant financial damage.
Anheuser-Busch became the latest big-budget advertiser to tell the league it needed to clean up its act with regard to disrespecting the flag and anthem or it would pull ads. The company, which is committed to spending $1.2 billion on NFL ads over the next six years, has already reprinted some packaging and cans to de-emphasize its connection to the franchises that have been most identified with the protests.
The beer giant released a statement Tuesday that said, “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.”
Earlier, the Radisson Hotel Group suspended its relationship with the Minnesota Vikings over the player protests and soft response by the league and said it would not resume the partnership until the resolution of the child abuse case against Adrian Peterson, a former Vikings running back who was accused of hitting his son with a “switch.”
“Radisson takes this matter very seriously, particularly in light of our longstanding commitment to the protection of children,” the firm 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.”
Issues of child abuse and domestic violence put the NFL in the crosshairs from both sides. Groups also have protested the league’s light treatment of Ray Rice after he knocked out his then-girlfriend with a vicious punch on an elevator in an incident caught on video. The league also took heat for allowing Greg Hardy to return soon after a wife-beating incident. The league is now going the other way, fighting in court to keep Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott out for the season after his girlfriend lodged a complaint she since has dropped.
There are not many firms with the ad budgets to make a difference in NFL advertising, and most are dependent on the fans who are burning their replica jerseys and season tickets in protest of the players’ kneeling during the national anthem. And some of those leaders, having gauged support among their customers for Trump’s remarks last week, have been disappointed by remarks from Commissioner Roger Goodell in support of the flag and anthem protests.
“Those who make the decisions on Madison Avenue are giving the powers that be in the NFL’s crystal palace an opportunity to rectify the situation,” Yahoo Sports reports. “But if things don’t change and the advertisers start feeling the impact on their bottom line, there will be some changes made in how a few key players in the marketing world shell out their revenue. That is one thing that will get the attention of the NFL.”