Nike Pulls Peterson Merchandise From Stores At MOA

MINNEAPOLIS (AP/WCCO) — For as long as he’s been in the NFL, Adrian Peterson has been one of the most popular and most marketable stars in the league, an approachable superstar with the kind of inspirational comeback story that made him an endorser’s dream.

Now that he is facing a felony charge of child abuse for spanking his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch, the Minnesota Vikings running back is in the middle of a firestorm the likes of which he’s never seen before, and several high-profile sponsors are starting to distance themselves while the controversy swirls envelopes a league in crisis.

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In the wake of the Vikings’ decision to allow Peterson to play while the legal process plays out in Texas, the Radisson hotel chain has suspended its relationship with the Vikings, Nike stores in the Twin Cities have stopped selling merchandise with his name on it and a message on his All Day Foundation’s website says the children’s charity is on hiatus and “will reengage after Adrian, his family, and staff have reflected on how the current situation impacts the direction for Adrian’s philanthropy.”

“It is an awful situation,” Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday. “Yes, Mr. Peterson is entitled to due process and should be ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ However, he is a public figure; and his actions, as described, are a public embarrassment to the Vikings organization and the State of Minnesota. Whipping a child to the extent of visible wounds, as has been alleged, should not be tolerated in our state. Therefore, I believe the team should suspend Mr. Peterson, until the accusations of child abuse have been resolved by the criminal justice system.”

Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf deactivated Peterson for the 30-7 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday while they tried to gather more information about the case. After reviewing files, speaking to Peterson, his attorney and authorities, the Wilfs decided to reinstate Peterson and he plans to play this weekend at New Orleans.

Radisson Hotels suspended its local sponsorship deal with the Vikings a short time later; the chain’s logo was on the backdrop behind general manager Rick Spielman when he made the controversial announcement Monday to bring back Peterson.

Nike stores at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Eagan and at an outlet mall in Albertville pulled Peterson merchandise. The Associated Press left a message with Nike seeking comment.

Mylan Inc. said it was no longer working with Peterson to promote its EpiPen, used to treat allergic reactions. The running back had participated in several promotions to raise awareness for anaphylaxis, which he has dealt with in the past.

ESPN reported Tuesday that Castrol Motor Oil terminated its contract with Peterson, and Special Olympics Minnesota said that “in light of the information that has come out…we are abstaining from any engagement with Adrian Peterson at this time.Earlier this month, the organization announced him as an ambassador for Unified Sports.

University of Minnesota Children’s Hospitals issued a statement Tuesday saying it’s evaluating its Vikings sponsorship.

U.S. Bank, which is rumored to be in the running for the naming rights to the team’s new stadium, said it is “monitoring the situation closely.”

So is Shaun Hagglund, the owner of Fan HQ in suburban Minneapolis who said he pulled Peterson apparel from the store’s shelves as soon as the charge came down on Friday night.

“I’m not making a moral stand or a judgment,” Hagglund said. “Just for now, let’s see what comes of this and see what stories are true and which ones are not and take it from there.”

Hagglund said fans were still mentioning the incident Tuesday while shopping in the store.

“It was an uncomfortable position to put our employees in. So we pulled the jerseys until we see kind of what comes out… until we get to the bottom of this story. The jerseys are just pulled indefinitely,” he said.

Wheaties has pulled the last of the Peterson mentions from its website, but General Mills spokesman Mike Siemienas said that was because of a contractual matter and not related to the child abuse charge. Siemienas said most of the Peterson material was removed months ago as the brand shifted to a new promotion with younger and up-and-coming athletes.

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Other sponsors were still standing behind the Vikings and Peterson, including Verizon Wireless.

“We are supportive of the NFL and, at this point, we are satisfied with our sponsorship of the Minnesota Vikings,” Verizon said in a statement to The Associated Press. “In fact, for the past several years we have collaborated with the Vikings on several programs to raise awareness of the impact of domestic violence, an issue Verizon has had a long-standing commitment to.”

Anheuser-Busch, one of NFL’s major sponsors, released a statement Tuesday expressing concern over recent events.

“We are disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season. 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,” the statement said.

Jon Austin, a public relations consultant, says companies can’t risk damaging the reputations of their brands.

“Every one of those organizations has a brand. Every one of those brands has a promise that they hold out to their customers and consumers — and they don’t want to do anything that jars that brand,” Austin said.

John Went, a professor of sports law and a former sports agent, said Peterson is at risk, but he can redeem himself.

“[He’s got] to man up and say, ‘I am sorry I did something wrong,'” he said.

Jon Austin, a leading public relations consultant, says it’s critical that Peterson not withhold any other information.

“If there are other issues, get them out, because they are going to come out,” he said.

Peterson has not spoken to reporters since his arrest, but he did issue a statement through his agency on Monday that in part addressed the negative attention that his situation has brought to the team.

“I never wanted to be a distraction to the Vikings organization, the Minnesota community or to my teammates,” Peterson said. “I never imagined being in a position where the world is judging my parenting skills or calling me a child abuser because of the discipline I administered to my son.”

Seeing Peterson, a player who has worked tirelessly in the community and been the face of the franchise practically since he arrived in Minnesota in 2007, put in the public crosshairs was just as jarring to some of his teammates.

“The Adrian I know does a lot of stuff for charity. He’s raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for special needs children, brings kids up here from Texas, gives them a dream and something to shoot for,” fullback Jerome Felton said. “Brings kids from the inner cities, takes them to Dick’s Sporting Goods and spends thousands of dollars of his own money. So that’s the guy I know and I’m glad to have him back on the team.”

For the Vikings, the Peterson crisis couldn’t have come at a worse time. They are in the midst of negotiating the corporate naming rights for the new $1 billion Vikings Stadium. The price tag for the naming rights is between $150 and $200 million.

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