PepsiCo boss decries NFL problems, backs Goodell

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PepsiCo boss decries NFL problems, backs Goodell
After months of criticism over the NFL's handling of domestic-abuse cases, Commissioner Roger Goodell is announcing a plan for how he intends to fix the problem. He sat for an interview with WSJ's Monica Langley.
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 08: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell holds a press conference on October 8, 2014 in New York City. Goodell addressed the media at the conclusion of the annual Fall league meeting in the wake of a string of high-profile incidents, including the domestic violence case of Ray Rice. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell walks to the podium during a press conference at the Hilton Hotel on September 19, 2014 in New York City. Goodell spoke about the NFL's failure to address domestic violence, sexual assault and drug abuse in the league. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell talks during a press conference at the Hilton Hotel on September 19, 2014 in New York City. Goodell spoke about the NFL's failure to address domestic violence, sexual assault and drug abuse in the league. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, with Adrian Peterson RB out of Oklahoma chosen seventh by the Minnesota Vikings during the NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY on Saturday, April 28, 2007. (Photo by Richard Schultz/NFLPhotoLibrary)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (R) walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (R) walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell talks to players at Wake Forest High School in Wake Forest, N.C., on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. He observed practice, talked to the players and took questions from the media. He was there to promote the NFL's Heads Up player safety program. He also took questions about the Ray Rice incident. (Chris Seward/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images)
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By MAE ANDERSON

NEW YORK (AP) -- PepsiCo Inc.'s CEO Indra Nooyi has made a double-edged statement on the NFL's problems handling domestic violence, calling some players' behavior "repugnant" but saying that Commissioner Roger Goodell is "a man of integrity."

The boss of the maker of Pepsi, Gatorade and Doritos, one of the league's biggest advertisers and sponsor of last year's Super Bowl halftime show, issued a statement late Wednesday that criticized the league but also expressed optimism that it can fix its problems.

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.

The praise from a woman CEO of one of the largest food-and-drink makers in the world could give Goodell a boost as he faces continued calls for his resignation.

Manish Tripathi, assistant marketing professor at Emory University in Atlanta, said Nooyi's support of Goodell was actually more risky than other sponsors' statements.

"It's such a no-risk thing to come out against domestic violence, waving their finger but not pulling any money," he said. "What Pepsi did is a little more interesting, they waved the finger but supported Roger Goodell. ... If you're Roger Goodell, this is definitely helpful."

Nooyi also decried the "repugnant behavior of a few players and the NFL's acknowledged mishandling of these issues," in a statement late Wednesday.

Most major sponsors have voiced disapproval, with Budweiser beer maker Anheuser-Busch, another one of the biggest, 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's power as a marketing machine. 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.

In addition to the support for Goodell, Nooyi 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.

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