PepsiCo latest sponsor to voice NFL concern

NEW YORK (AP) The war of words is heating up for the NFL, with PepsiCo Inc. CEO Indra Nooyi the latest major Super Bowl advertiser to make a pointed statement about the league.

Nooyi said she was ”deeply disturbed” by the ”repugnant behavior of a few players and the NFL’s acknowledged mishandling of these issues,” in a statement late Wednesday.

Pepsi, which sponsors the league via its namesake brand, Gatorade sports drink and Frito-Lay snack division, is one of the biggest NFL sponsors. The league and its teams have come under fire over the past two weeks over how it is dealing with several players with domestic violence allegations against them. An investigation has been launched into whether Commissioner Roger Goodell knew about or saw a video of Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancee earlier than he said.

Most major sponsors have voiced disapproval, with Anheuser-Busch, another one of the NFL’s biggest sponsors, saying it was ”increasingly concerned” about the situation.

But despite the lip service, it would be difficult for a sponsor to actually give up on the NFL. An average of 17.4 million people tune in during a regular season NFL game, about 65 percent men and 35 percent women, according to Nielsen. During the Super Bowl, that ratchets up to 111.5 million watchers.

Nooyi said she supports Roger Goodell, calling him a ”man of integrity,” and praised the decision to hire three women executives to help shape its domestic violence policies.

”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,” she said in a statement.

AP Business Writer Michelle Chapman in New York contributed to this report.