Wendi Nix might be calling on Cowboys sponsors to vote with their money, but she doesn’t seem to have much company.
On Sunday, the ESPN reporter, appearing live on air, called out Cowboys owner Jerry Jones but also the team’s major sponsors, AT&T, Miller Brewing Co. and American Airlines, for allowing defensive player Greg Hardy to continue playing for the team after Deadspin released a series of damning photos showing evidence that he hit his ex-girlfriend, Nicole Holder.
“I’m an unapologetic capitalist. I believe in big business and I am sure as hell in favor of profits,” she said. “But at the end of the day, when economic principles can’t be applied with even the smallest measure of social responsibility there’s one effective solution and that’s to let the dollars vote.”
But whether it’s because Hardy’s case has been dismissed by the courts — out or that the brands don’t really get dented by this kind of scandal — social analysis is showing that the Nix appeal, or Hardy’s case in general, isn’t making any difference to the biggest sponsor, AT&T.
In fact, there are so many conversations around AT&T online that the number of mentions denouncing its Cowboys sponsorships have no impact on overall sentiment for the brand, according to social analytics firm Brandwatch. It’s the same with Miller and with American Airlines, the other two big sponsors of the Cowboys.
Basically, people are talking about AT&T, Miller and American Airlines, but not about their link with the Cowboys and this latest scandal.
A year and half ago Hardy was arrested and charged with assaulting his girlfriend at the time. He was convicted on a bench trial, but charges were dismissed on appeal. On Friday, sports site Deadspin published a report about Hardy featuring, among other things, photos of Holder after the assault — important since Hardy’s charges were mostly dismissed and the tide never really turned against him precisely because there was no visual evidence.
“This is old hat for any brand connected with the NFL, and this won’t make any difference,” said one agency expert who couldn’t speak publicly because of contractual obligations with mobile brands. “There is too much money at stake.”
But AT&T has been singled out by commentators because it’s the most visual sponsor: its name is literally on the Cowboys’ stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Nix isn’t the only journalist out asking for action: SBNation’s Rodger Sherman also said that the Cowboys should cut Greg Hardy and got this slightly insane e-mail in response, according to Sherman.
I said the Cowboys should cut Greg Hardy and got this email in reply. A lot going on here. pic.twitter.com/bt37pmKcZY
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger_sherman) November 9, 2015
Visual evidence of the assault is powerful, but it they only surfaced after charges against Hardy that had already been dropped. Which means there isn’t much the NFL can do, other than pressure the Cowboys to drop Hardy. AT&T has made no public statement and did not respond to a request for comment.
The other sponsors, too, have demurred. American Airlines told TMZ that it “supports teams, not individual players,” adding that the company does partner with Cowboys on community projects including those supporting victims of domestic violence. Miller has also remained silent on the issue.
None of this is very surprising. The NFL and its teams have been dealing with supposed fallout due to domestic violence allegations against Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice for a while now — and despite plenty of criticism against its lenient tack, the league and its teams still draw record audiences and money.
The Cowboys are the most valuable team in the NFL. According to a latest Forbes valuation, the team is worth $1.8 billion. And experts say that Hardy — good as he is — might not be actually worth the “hassle” of keeping him on. Since this weekend’s game, the Cowboys are 2-6 — and their season might be over if things don’t start looking up. On the Cowboys front, coach Jason Garett made only one statement post the game. He said: “We as an organization don’t condone domestic violence.”
Talk about a bold stance.
Homepage image via CBS/NFL