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Major Sponsors Turn Up Heat on NFL Over Handling of Abuse Scandal

Companies have started yanking sponsorship deals over the NFL's handling of the domestic abuse scandal.
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Major corporate sponsors are dishing out some heat to the NFL over its handling of domestic violence issues and other recent scandals — but until today had stopped short of pulling their advertising.

Nike and Castrol announced Wednesday they were canceling their sponsorship of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. "Nike in no way condones child abuse or domestic violence of any kind," said the shoe company in a statement.

They weren't the first companies to speak out on the scandals, but in suspending sponsorship, they will speak the loudest.

On Tuesday, Budweiser issued a strongly worded statement saying it was "disappointed and increasingly concerned" by the scandals. The brewer, whose commercials featuring the iconic Clydesdales are almost synonymous with pro football, sponsors some 88 percent of NFL teams, according to consultants IEG LLC, making it the second-biggest sponsor in the league. In 2011, Bud Light replaced Coors Light to become the "official beer" of the NFL in a historic deal reportedly worth $1.2 billion over six years.

While it fell shy of yanking its sponsorship, the statement by the U.S. division of brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev NV said it was "not yet satisfied with the league's handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code."

The NFL said it got Anheuser-Busch's message. "We understand. We are taking action and there will be much more to come," the league said in a statement.

Pepsi also joined the corporate chorus Wednesday, saying in a statement: "Domestic violence is completely unacceptable. We are encouraged to see the NFL is now treating this with the seriousness it deserves." Earlier, Campbell Soup Co. chimed in, saying: "We are watching developments closely and look forward to the findings of the independent investigation underway. Upon completion of the investigation, we expect the NFL to take appropriate action." And a statement from McDonald's said in part: "As a family brand, we've communicated our concerns to the league, and we expect it to take strong and necessary actions to address these issues."

Several other companies, including Visa, Bridgestone Americas, FedEx, General Motors, Marriott International earlier issued statements deploring domestic violence and saying they are monitoring the NFL's actions.

The league and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, have been chastised over their initial response to former Ravens running back Ray Rice's caught-on-video punching of his then-fiancée and to the Minnesota Vikings' decision to allow running back Adrian Peterson to play while he faced a child abuse charge for allegedly spanking his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch.

Radisson Hotels said Monday it was pulling its sponsorship of the Vikings. Castrol Motor Oil and Mylan also said they were cutting sponsorship ties with Peterson.

Marketing experts have said the NFL's brand is so strong it will weather the current crises.

— James Eng and CNBC contributed to this report.