The newly rebranded NFL Washington Commanders saw a longstanding sponsor end its relationship with the team this month, as Anheuser Busch-InBev announced it was ending its sponsorship of the franchise.
The team settled on its new name after discarding the “Redskins” name that had been in place since 1933 in 2020 using “Washington Football Team” from then until the announcement of the rebranding as the Commanders in February.
The boilerplate statements from Anheuser-Busch and the Commanders gave little indication of the decision being anything other than a normal offseason advertising decision. The beer giant simply said that it has decided against renewing its sponsorship while remaining “fully committed to Washington football fans.” It said that its long-term relationship with the league and 26 of its teams will continue.
The contract with Anheuser-Busch was easily worth millions of dollars annually and included Bud Light logo displays throughout the team’s stadium. The formal announcement of the team’s new name last month was made in Bud Light Pavilion.
The Commanders also issued a neutral statement about the lost sponsorship that gave little indication of internal problems within the franchise. Anheuser-Busch is the third major corporate sponsor to cancel existing advertising arrangements with the team in the last year.
Medical billing company Midliminal and Inova Health Systems also recently announced they are ending sponsorship deals with the team. Inova’s decision comes only five years into a ten-year contract. The company is also home to the director of medicine for the team, meaning the Commanders are also losing their team doctors.
The contract terminations appear to be caused by significant problems in the front office management of the team. Owner Dan Snyder has been involved in several legal tangles and publicity problems recently. Multiple team employees have made claims of workplace sexual harassment, with Snyder being personally involved in some of the cases.
The NFL conducted an internal investigation of the allegations, but no documents or detailed findings have been released. A Congressional committee has taken testimony from some former employees of the franchise regarding the workplace atmosphere.
The team is also struggling with significant problems with its stadium and has the lowest fan attendance in the entire league. During a game last season, a sewage pipe at the stadium burst on a group of fans. The team has notified all ticket purchasers that it will not allow any fans to wear Redskins gear, Native American garb, or any face paint inside the stadium.
Unfortunately for fans of one of the NFL’s all-time great franchises, the team seems to be struggling almost as much as the federal government it shares its home city with.