As the National Football League continues to regroup in the wake of the domestic violence controversy, a few key sponsors have somewhat distanced themselves from the league.
Nike suspended its endorsement deal with Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson, who is facing child-abuse charges, and Target has pulled Peterson merchandise from its stores and Web site.
A Nike spokesman said Thursday, “Nike in no way condones child abuse or domestic violence of any kind and has shared our concerns with the NFL. We have suspended our contract with Adrian Peterson.”
A shareholder at Nike’s annual meeting in Beaverton, Ore., Thursday, asked Nike brand president Trevor Edwards if the recent domestic violence incidents changed his views on sponsoring professional athletes in general.
“We strongly believe in the power of athletes and sports to inspire people,” Edwards said. “Having said that, there’s no doubt the recent incidents are both serious and concerned. At the same time from the Nike perspective, we’re always taking…our views from a case-by-case basis, really looking at the individual situation.”
Target also took action Wednesday by pulling Peterson merchandise from its stores and the retailer’s Web site.
A company spokeswoman said Thursday, “Our team continues to closely follow the allegations involving Adrian Peterson, and the team’s decision to indefinitely remove him from all Viking activities. Taking into account the feedback from our guests, and in light of team’s most recent actions, we are opting to remove Peterson merchandise from our stores and target.com.”
She added, “We haven’t made any other assortment changes related to the league.”
Executives at Under Armour did not respond to requests for comment Thursday, nor did New Era, which also sells licensed NFL apparel, and Cover Girl, a league sponsor. Earlier in the week, Cover Girl issued a statement after a Photoshopped version of one its ads depicted a model with a black eye. At that time, the cosmetics company noted, “In light of recent events, we have encouraged the NFL to take swift action on their path forward to address the issue of domestic violence.”
Cover Girl spokeswomen Janelle Monáe and Queen Latifah declined comment through their respective representatives. An agent for another Cover Girl model, Katy Perry, did not respond to requests for comment.
The NFL has hired three female advisers including former Liz Claiborne executive Jane Randel, who is the cofounder of No More, a national initiative to raise the profile of and normalize the conversation about domestic violence and sexual assault. Lisa Friel, former head of the sex crimes prosecution unit of the New York County District Attorney’s Office, and Rita Smith, the former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, are the other two. In an e-mail distributed to teams and staffs earlier this week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Randel and Smith will oversee the development and implementation of the NFL’s domestic violence-sexual assault workplace policy; build on existing training curricula and education programs for all personnel, including players and nonplayers; disseminate and execute completed training programs for all 32 teams, including executives, coaches, players and staff; identify and manage DV/SA resources to enhance current services such as NFL Life Line and the NFL’s employee assistance programs for league and club employees and their families, and identify and disseminate information to employees and families regarding resources outside of the NFL and clubs, including local advocacy and support organizations in each NFL community.
With women accounting for 46 percent of the NFL’s estimated 150 million-strong fan base, the league has a lot at stake in the wake of the ongoing controversy. In recent years, the NFL has tried to increase appeal to its female fans by offering more stylish licensed apparel and advertising. Theory developed a limited-edition Super Bowl collection last year, and in 2012 Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman whipped up a limited-edition shirt for the league. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Melania Trump, DJ Kiss and Olympic swimmer Summer Sanders are among other notable models the NFL has used in recent years.