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Pepsi CEO blasts NFL, but says Commissioner Roger Goodell will do the right thing

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addresses the media on

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addresses the media on May 29, 2014, in Foxborough, Mass. Credit: AP / Stephan Savoia

PepsiCo Inc. chief executive Indra Nooyi said she is “confident” that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “will do the right thing” regarding cases of domestic violence involving some of its players, including Ray Rice.

“When it comes to child abuse and domestic violence, there is no middle ground,” Nooyi said in an emailed statement Wednesday. “I am a mother, a wife, and a passionate football fan. I am deeply disturbed that the repugnant behavior of a few players and the NFL’s acknowledged mishandling of these issues, is casting a cloud over the integrity of the league and the reputations of the majority of players who’ve dedicated their lives to a career they love.”

The National Football League has been besieged by criticism after of Goodell’s mishandling of the arrest of Rice, a Baltimore Ravens running back, who was seen in an elevator surveillance video knocking out his fiancee. Nooyi’s comments are the first from a female CEO of a company that has a big sponsorship deal with the NFL. The female chiefs of General Motors Co. and Campbell Soup Co. have yet to comment.

Nooyi also said that the NFL had made positive moves to address the crisis, including the hiring of former FBI director Robert Mueller to conduct an independent investigation of the case and the hiring of women executives to help shape its domestic violence policies.

CLUB ACTIVITIES
Rice originally was suspended for two games by the NFL in July before being indefinitely suspended last week after a February video went public showing Rice punching his fiancee in the face and knocking her unconscious. Rice has appealed his indefinite suspension.

The league is also grappling with a child-abuse charge against Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who was held out of this past weekend’s game but cleared by the team to resume practice this week. The Vikings then reversed its decision Wednesday and suspended him from all club activities.

The NFL reaps about $1 billion a year in sponsor revenue from companies that include McDonald’s Corp., Visa Inc., Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, Procter & Gamble Co., Verizon Communications Inc., PepsiCo, GM and Campbell Soup.

Anheuser-Busch said in a statement this week that it is disappointed and “increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season.” The company’s brands include Budweiser, a frequent Super Bowl advertiser.

“The reality for Commissioner Goodell and the NFL is that they now have an opportunity to effect positive change with the situation presented to them,” Nooyi said. “I urge them to seize this moment.”

NOOYI'S FULL STATEMENT
"I am a mother, a wife, and a passionate football fan. I am deeply disturbed that the repugnant behavior of a few players and the NFL's acknowledged mishandling of these issues, is casting a cloud over the integrity of the league and the reputations of the majority of players who've dedicated their lives to a career they love. 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.

 "Given PepsiCo's long-standing partnership with the NFL, I know Roger Goodell. We have worked together for many years. I know him to be a man of integrity, and I am confident that he will do the right thing for the league in light of the serious issues it is facing.

 "Over the past several days, it is increasingly apparent that the NFL is starting to treat these issues with the seriousness they deserve. Hiring former FBI director Robert Mueller to conduct a thorough investigation is a positive step, as is hiring three prominent women with significant, relevant expertise and assigning another, who is an NFL official, to help shape its domestic violence policies. These individuals must now be given the necessary time to review all relevant facts so that corrective actions can be taken, and well-tailored and effective policies against domestic violence and child abuse can be implemented immediately.

 "The reality for Commissioner Goodell and the NFL is that they now have an opportunity to effect positive change with the situation presented to them. I urge them to seize this moment. How they handle these cases going forward can help shape how we, as a nation, as a society, and as individuals treat domestic violence and child abuse."

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