The National Football League, which on Wednesday was criticized by Anheuser Busch InBev, got a much-needed vote of confidence Thursday from PepsiCo, which like the brewer is a major NFL advertiser and sponsor.
Indra Nooyi -- the food and beverage giant's CEO and one of the highest-ranking females in corporate America -- said the recent player incidents are "casting a cloud over the integrity of the league," but she also lent support to embattled NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league in general.
"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," Ms. Nooyi said in a statement. "Over the past several days, it is increasingly apparent that the NFL is starting to treat these issues with the seriousness they deserve," she added.
Ms. Nooyi's statement came after a Bloomberg News story raised questions about the relative silence of three female CEOs of major sponsors, including Ms. Nooyi, General Motors CEO Mary Barra and Campbell Soup Co. CEO Denise Morrison. The story stated that "several female activists are pushing the three CEOs to speak out" on the Ray Rice domestic abuse case. But the story also noted that other women said it is "unfair to hold female bosses to higher standards."
Ms. Nooyi's statement stakes a middle ground, beginning with harsh language, but then ending with praise about actions the league has taken to address damage caused by the Ray Rice matter and the allegations of child abuse against Adrian Peterson. Overall, her words are more supportive than A-B InBev's statement that "we are not yet satisfied with the league's handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code."
Here is Ms. 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."