Goodell, NFL Getting Heat from Sponsors
The NFL’s response to the recent rash of off-the-field incidents could cost them a lot more than just some bad publicity. Roger Goodell and the rest of the league’s front office and ownership have been skewered by the traditional media, women’s groups, social media and the office water cooler gossip for the past few weeks, but in reality it’s been longer than that. Goodell has put himself at the center of the majority of the league’s tough discipline policies since he took over as commissioner from Paul Tagliabue in 2006. He hasn’t shown much remorse or back-peddled while portraying himself as the “new sheriff” in town. For the most part it seemed to work in his favor and his bosses–the league’s owners–backed him at every turn. But now the tide may be turning and the reason is what the NFL is all about…the almighty dollar.
Anheuser-Busch, the official beer of the NFL is not happy with the way the league (Goodell) has handled the recent rash of off-the field domestic violent issues. You might say that when Anheuser-Busch talks, the NFL listens. The beer company has a contract with the league for over $1 billion dollars, that’s with a “B.” Here’s what the people at Budweiser had to say on Tuesday, “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.” Anheuser-Busch spends about $200 million a year with the NFL in rights fees and additional advertising with the NFL. That is a lot of clout and it makes the owners very nervous about the job their commissioner is doing. If Anheuser-Busch said they wanted Mickey Mouse to be the NFL commissioner, the owners would seriously consider it.
On top of that, McDonald’s, Visa, Campbell’s Soup and Pepsico have voiced similar concerns with the league. Media and fan voices may not be heard or valued much by the all-powerful NFL, but believe you me, the people who line the owners pockets with wads of cash every year, surely do, and they know it. Those companies sell their beer and burgers and soup to the same fans who despise everything they hear about the players in the NFL. Those companies, not the commissioner, not the owners, have the ultimate power in this matter. Nothing creates arrogance more than wealth. If those sponsor’s pulled their advertising, the league would be mortally wounded.
All of the companies mentioned, and probably others not mentioned, have expressed their feelings with Goodell. Together they represent hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to the NFL each year, really the life-blood of the league. That is why you will continue to see a contrite and humble Roger Goodell. He may have the power to rule over the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson issues but it won’t be without serious consideration to the boys who write the sponsorship checks. Radisson Hotels has already suspended its sponsorship of the Vikings but that’s a drop in the bucket to just one team in the league. If the major players follow suit, the league could be crippled. With that in mind, expect Rice and Peterson and anyone else who violates the domestic violence policy, to be punished severely. We all know…it rolls downhill.