Recently, the NFL’s brand image has been damaged by the unfortunate decisions of a few high-profile players. A timeline published by CNN.com, Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens was involved in a domestic dispute – which led to the hospitalization of his then-fiancée (now wife), Janay Palmer on February 15, 2014. Four days later a video was released that showed part of the dispute. On March 27th Ray Rice was indicted by a grand jury for third-degree aggravated assault and on July 24th the NFL announced Rice’s punishment – a measly two-game suspension. On September 8th TMZ released a video depicting the entire altercation in the elevator, including the portion where Ray Rice punched Palmer knocking her unconscious. Hours later Rice was released by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Meanwhile, in the Midwest, CBS News reports that Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings was indicted by a grand jury for “reckless or negligent injury to a child”. Soon after the announcement, Peterson was deactivated by the Vikings but no action was taken by the league. Both of these incidents led to cries of outrage from fans, media, and even fellow players. People showed their support or dissent via social media and soon it became a problem that the NFL could not ignore. The picture painted online and in social media indicates that the major issue lies not within the actual actions of the individuals, but in the response and punishment (or lack-there-of) that was dealt out by the NFL. This was reflected in statements made by NFL sponsors when these companies sent out condemning press releases and some even pulled sponsorship. The official statement made by Anheuser-Bush, “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 and moral code. We have shared our concerns and expectations with the league”, shows that sponsors do not take these situations lightly and they are concerned for their own brand image. PepsiCo issued a similar press release stating, “When it comes to child abuse and domestic violence, there is no middle ground. The behaviors are disgusting, absolutely unacceptable, and completely fly in the face of the values we at PepsiCo believe in and cherish.” Another sponsor, Nike, pulled all Adrian Peterson merchandise from stores in Minneapolis and the Radisson (formerly the team hotel) suspended sponsorship of the Vikings stating, “Radisson takes this matter very seriously particularly in