The #NFL has 337 million reasons to fix its tattered image with female fans.

The NFL’s inept response to domestic violence may jeopardize its fattest-growing business:  Women.

The Licensing Letter estimates that the most popular professional sports league generates about $337 million in retail sales from sales of apparel, accessories and miscellaneous other products (team color nail polish) to women.   These sales have been gaining at a double-digit increase over the past few years, much  better than sales of goods to men.   Women are about 46 percent of the NFL fan base, which is likely the highest among the four major professional sports.

But as I noted in a story for CBSNews.com,  the passion that women have for football has cooled in the wake of the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson scandals, the passion that some women feel for the sport has cooled considerably.

From the story:

“It has to be a huge worry,” said Galen Clavio, an assistant professor of sports management at Indiana University, adding that women are more likely to follow the NFL than any of the other four major professional sports. “These are major problems that need to be addressed.”

The NFL has tapped into the women’s market is many ways. For instance, it has a partnership with clothing line Touch by Alyssa Milano that sells NFL apparel and accessories such as earrings with team logos on it.

Companies are also eager to tap into the NFL’s female fan base. Female NFL fans can decorate their fingernails with tattoos of their favorite team’s logo and with nail polish matching their team colors. They can make their football season look complete with team insignia earnings and a matching necklace.

The question for the league, as well as for advertisers and merchandisers, is whether women are in a buying mood. Chicago Bears fan Chitra Panjabi, a vice president at the National Organization for Women, discovered football after moving to the U.S. for graduate school a few years ago. Her passion for the game has cooled lately, though she did attend a Bears game recently at Soldier Field. NOW has called on Goodell to resign.

“I am turned off by what the NFL is doing,” she said.

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