Bob Evans Restaurants removed ads featuring Urban Meyer from its website Thursday, hours after the Ohio State football coach was placed on paid leave amid an investigation into a former assistant coach’s alleged domestic abuse.
In announcing the deal with Meyer, Evans, the chain’s president and CEO, said that, “we’re ready for whatever plays he throws at us.”
That changed this week.
“At Bob Evans Restaurants, we believe strongly in the family first values upon which the company was founded,” the company said in a statement. “We are suspending the current partnership with Urban Meyer and removing all related content pending the results of the official Ohio State University investigation.”
Meyer was placed on leave after the ex-wife of longtime assistant Zach Smith called into question Meyer’s claim that he was unaware of a 2015 domestic abuse allegation against Smith. Courtney Smith, the ex-wife of the recently fired wide receivers coach, said in an interview that she had discussed the incident in 2015 with Shelley Meyer, Urban Meyer’s wife. Courtney Smith claims her ex-husband shoved her against a wall with his hands around her neck.
“All the [coaches’] wives knew,” Courtney Smith told Brett McMurphy, a college football reporter laid off by ESPN last year who posted the story on his Facebook page. “They all did. Every single one.”
Smith provided McMurphy with text messages she exchanged with Shelley Meyer in 2015 about the incident, which brought a police visit but did not result in criminal charges against Zach Smith, who was fired last month after that allegation and one from 2009 came to light. In 2009, Smith was arrested on a charge that Courtney Smith later dropped. Zach Smith denied the allegation in a statement released by his lawyer.
Shelley Meyer has appeared in ads for Big Sandy Superstore, which did not respond to a request for comment.
The allegations call into question Meyer’s future at the school, one of the most visible in college sports. Annual studies from Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus list it as college football’s most valuable brand and, according to the Columbus Dispatch, the school trademarked the name “Urban Meyer” in 2015.
Sponsors often end deals the moment an off-the-field incident occurs, and sometimes reinstate them if athletes are cleared or rebuild their lives. Tiger Woods lost almost all his sponsors other than Nike when his extramarital affairs came to light in 2008. Ryan Lochte lost four sponsors after he was found to have falsely claimed that he and three other swimmers had been robbed during the 2016 Rio Olympics. Lance Armstrong was dumped by sponsors after he admitted that he had been doping while winning the Tour de France. Michael Vick lost a number of sponsors after being indicted and later convicted of running an illegal dog fighting ring. Maria Sharapova lost deals after she was suspended for taking a substance that she did not know was banned. Marion Jones lost her endorsement deals after she was stripped of her Olympic medals for using steroids. And, of course, Papa John’s faced a fallout after John Schnatter blamed sagging sales on the national anthem controversy last fall, and later admitted to using offensive language during a conference call.
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