NFL Meets on Domestic Violence as Sponsors Watch on the Sidelines [Updated]

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met with team owners on Wednesday to discuss (among other agenda items) how to repair the damage to the league’s brand including possible changes to the personal-conduct policy for players. As a lead up, owners were schooled on domestic violence by a 40-minute presentation the league has put together to show all of its employees, the AP reports.

That presentation included a powerful video presentation by former player Joe Ehrmann, a defensive tackle for 10 pro seasons back in the ’70s and early ’80s and (as the head of the Coach For America Foundation) a persuasive speaker. “Men play a critical role in reducing domestic violence by being active in interventions,” Deana Garner, the league’s director of player engagement and education, said, according to the AP. “Step in. Speak out. Have thoughtful conversations.” 

Under intense scrutiny by the public and sponsors alike, Goodell and the owners went into today’s meeting knowing they’re also under intense scrutiny by not only fans and the public court of opinion, but also sponsors.[more]

Campbell Soup Co., for example, has been a longstanding sponsor of the NFL, featuring players such as the Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (and his mother) in its ad campaigns.

While the company hasn’t pulled its sponsorship, it’s been watching closely to assess the situation. Campbell’s CEO Denise Morrison told CNN while at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit this week that she has spoken with Goodell and expressed the company’s concerns.

Asked by CNN’s reporter if the company considered pulling its deal with the NFL, she stated that “the NFL is a good organization and I believe it will do the right thing,” so she’s not rushing to judgment, even though she has been disappointed by the situation.

“We have concerns about what’s happened,” Morrison said, “but we definitely want to make sure that we get the facts.”

Among other female CEOs whose brands are NFL sponsors, PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi, has similarly stated she’s concerned but standing by Goodell to do the right thing, while GM’s Mary Barra, also commented this week that the NFL has to “set the tone” on the issue of domestic violence:

NFL sponsor, Verizon, meanwhile, is more vocally supporting the NFL. The telecom’s CEO Lowell McAdam is publicly standing by Goodell and the league, including publishing a supportive op-ed on LinkedIn. The company has also launched its own pro-social campaign around domestic violence, Voices Have Power.

This week Verizon also partnered on a local domestic violence effort with the NFL by donating $100,000 to End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin via its Hopeline charitable arm. The event also featured Green Bay Packers fan favorite Clay Matthews—who has appeared in Campbell’s TV advertising—to say a few words at a kick-off event on Tuesday.

“Really why I’m here is to kind of put myself out there, within the community, and allow others to look up to somebody and hopefully change domestic abuse ways,” said Matthews, according to the local FOX TV affiliate.

Now it remains to be seen whether today’s NFL’s domestic violence summit will convince more NFL stakeholders—sponsors, community organizations and fans—that the league is sufficiently addressing this crisis for its brand.

Update: Following the marathon 12-hour meeting, of which five hours were devoted to how to handle domestic violence situations and the personal conduct of players, Goodell told reporters the league hopes to have a revamped personal conduct policy in place by the Super Bowl, commenting that

“It’s not simple when people want simple solutions to complex problems. You have different state laws, different criminal proceedings, and different law enforcement standards. There’s a lot that goes into these decisions. You’re trying to balance due process with making sure that you protect the integrity of the game.”

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