Anheuser-Busch deal has out clause

If Anheuser-Busch wanted to drop its sponsorship of the NFL, it potentially could without penalty.

A source with a copy of the brewer's six-year, $1.2 billion contract with the league signed in 2011 provided ESPN.com with language of the deal's clause relating to termination.

Anheuser-Busch could unilaterally end the deal in writing if a "league-wide" event "brings the entire NFL, not just particular member clubs, players, coaches or employees, into national disrepute, scandal or ridicule."

The clause in the contract makes reference to the fact that the event cannot include a labor dispute, including a work stoppage.

The clause also states that the licensee -- in this case, Anheuser-Busch -- must prove that the event resulted in a loss of value in the deal.

The latter might be the hardest to prove. While the handling of the Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy cases have been embarrassing for the league, business, including attendance, TV ratings and merchandise sales, hasn't suffered.

A spokesperson for Anheuser-Busch would not confirm or deny the specificity of the morals clause or speak to whether the company would consider severing the deal.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy would also not comment on the contract.

On Tuesday, the company issued the harshest criticism of the league that came from any sponsor, though it came hours before Peterson was placed on the exempt list.

"We are disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season," a spokesperson for Anheuser-Busch said in a statement. "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."

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