NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Anheuser-Busch is the first major National Football League sponsor to publicly criticize how the league is handling domestic violence controversies.
“We are disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season,” said the company’s statement. “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.”
“We understand,” said NFL spokesman. “We are taking action and there will be much more to come.”
Anheuser-Busch spends $50 million a year in sponsorship deals with the league and its teams, according to research firm IEG. The brewer is one of the NFL’s three biggest sponsors, along with PepsiCo and Nike.
That $50 million sponsorship doesn’t include the millions Anheuser-Busch spends on advertising during game broadcasts. That kind of big spending is why the league is able to charge broadcasters more than $5 billion to show its games this season.
The league has been caught in a swirl of controversy this season dealing with domestic violence and child abuse.
Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was cut from the team and suspended by the league indefinitely when a video surfaced showing him knocking out his then fiancee. Separately, star Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse in Texas last week after hitting his child with a switch. The Vikings didn’t let Peterson play in Sunday’s game, but he was paid for the game and he hasn’t been suspended.
The news has sparked widespread criticism from the public and many sports commentators. The National Organization for Women has called on Commissioner Roger Goodell to resign, and some members of Congress have said they may hold hearings on the matter.
Until now most NFL sponsors, who pay the league and its teams a total of $1.07 billion a year, have either supported the league or stayed somewhat neutral.
Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said last week that his company was “very supportive of the NFL and we are going to wait and see how the facts play out here but I’m, at this point, satisfied with the actions they’ve taken.”
Radisson Hotels, which has an individual deal with the Vikings, suspended its sponsorship after the team announced Peterson will play the next game.