Adrian Peterson Child Abuse Case Is Latest NFL Crisis
All last week, we were worn down to a nub by the Ray Rice domestic assault case.
Elevator security videos, indefinite suspensions, and allegations that the commissioner of the NFL may be lying about what he knew, didn't know, or at the very least efforted during the due diligence process. By the end of the week, the "Ray Rice story" had become the "Roger Goodell story" with the possibility of Goodell being relieved of his duties on the board.
It was not a fun week. And the whole time we were discussing and dissecting the story, we knew it would take a bombshell to somehow trump the interest in Roger Goodell's handling of Ray Rice's transgressions.
It took exactly three days to get that bombshell.
On Friday afternoon, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted on charges of child abuse in Montgomery Country stemming from an incident in May with his four year old son where he gave him a "whooping" with a switch, leaving the child with visible scars and wounds, including one on the child's scrotum.
News of the indictment along with exhaustive details and pictures of the child's injuries were all first revealed by my colleague Nick Wright, who hosts the morning show on Sports Radio 610.
For his part, Peterson was cooperative during all phases of the investigation, including interviews with police with no attorney present. Multiple times Peterson cited similar discipline meted out to him when he was a child, and he clearly saw "whoopings" as a normal mode of punishing his child. He did admit that this particular incident went overboard and was reportedly remorseful.
Over the weekend, the Vikings responded by deactivating Peterson for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots, a game the Vikings lost 30-7. However, the deactivation did not last long as Peterson was reinstated to the roster on Monday, and issued the following statement:
My attorney has asked me not to discuss the facts of my pending case. I hope you can respect that request and help me honor it. I very much want the public to hear from me but I understand that it is not appropriate to talk about the facts in detail at this time. Nevertheless, I want everyone to understand how sorry I feel about the hurt I have brought to my child.
I never wanted to be a distraction to the Vikings organization, the Minnesota community or to my teammates. I never imagined being in a position where the world is judging my parenting skills or calling me a child abuser because of the discipline I administered to my son.
I voluntarily appeared before the grand jury several weeks ago to answer any and all questions they had. Before my grand jury appearance, I was interviewed by two different police agencies without an attorney. In each of these interviews I have said the same thing, and that is that I never ever intended to harm my son. I will say the same thing once I have my day in court.
I have to live with the fact that when I disciplined my son the way I was disciplined as a child, I caused an injury that I never intended or thought would happen. I know that many people disagree with the way I disciplined my child. I also understand after meeting with a psychologist that there are other alternative ways of disciplining a child that may be more appropriate.
I have learned a lot and have had to reevaluate how I discipline my son going forward. But deep in my heart I have always believed I could have been one of those kids that was lost in the streets without the discipline instilled in me by my parents and other relatives. I have always believed that the way my parents disciplined me has a great deal to do with the success I have enjoyed as a man. I love my son and I will continue to become a better parent and learn from any mistakes I ever make.
I am not a perfect son. I am not a perfect husband. I am not a perfect parent, but I am, without a doubt, not a child abuser. I am someone that disciplined his child and did not intend to cause him any injury. No one can understand the hurt that I feel for my son and for the harm I caused him. My goal is always to teach my son right from wrong and that's what I tried to do that day.
I accept the fact that people feel very strongly about this issue and what they think about my conduct. Regardless of what others think, however, I love my son very much and I will continue to try to become a better father and person.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman explained the team's decision in a press conference on Monday afternoon:
"The photos are disturbing, I understand that. But to be clear, any matter that's involving the child is very important to our organization, but we also think it is right for him to go through the process legally," Spielman said.
Asked if the Vikings are standing by Peterson only because he's a great player, Spielman insisted that's not he case.
"It has nothing to do with him as a football player. It's based purely on the facts that we have, that have been presented to us," Spielman said. "It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with the information we have gathered."
For a variety of reasons, this Peterson case is going to be a lot more complex for the Vikings and the league than the Rice case was for the Ravens and is for the NFL:
4. Adrian Peterson can still play. For the Ravens, cutting Ray Rice is made much easier by the fact that he is coming off of a season where he averaged barely three yards a carry. For Ray Rice, even an overturn of his indefinite suspension (a distinct possibility, by the way) doesn't guarantee he will ever play in the NFL again. In fact, if I had to bet, I'd bet he doesn't. Peterson, conversely, is a year removed from being MVP of the league and is still widely regarded as one of the top three running backs in football. If the Vikings were to ever cut him (which they won't), there'd be a dozen teams climbing over each other to sign him.
3. None of Adrian Peterson's transgressions were caught on video. Ten days ago, Ray Rice was serving a two game suspension and getting ready to return in Week 3. Then the surveillance video from the elevator surfaced showing clearly his striking his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in the face with a fist, rendering her unconscious after she hit her head on the rail on the way down. The video was graphic and appalling, and understandably there was outrage. The Ravens cut Rice the same day, and Goodell suspended him indefinitely. There's only one problem -- the only thing that had changed from the day before the video surfaced was that everyone saw Rice's punch. He had already admitted to punching Janay Palmer, and had been punished for it. However, the primal shock of seeing it, along with the horrified reaction of fans and media everywhere fueled the perceived need for further punishment. Peterson is facing no such visual scrutiny (at least not yet, that we know of).
2. The blurred lines between discipline and abuse. Ray Rice punched a woman in the face. That's never been acceptable under any circumstance, ever. Adrian Peterson, in his mind, was administering discipline in the same way he experienced as a child. Discipline of a child is a tricky topic, especially when you factor in the defense of Peterson that in the South, this type of punishment happened "all the time." This exchange between Jim Rome and Charles Barkley illustrates that debate:
1. The bubbling sponsor exodus in Minnesota. As of Monday night, Radisson (whose logo appeared on the backdrop of the Vikings interview podium, where numerous interviews about child abuse have taken place in the last 24 hours) said they were suspending their sponsorship of the Vikings in this statement:
Radisson takes this matter very seriously particularly in light of our long-standing commitment to the protection of children. We are closely following the situation and effective immediately, Radisson is suspending its limited sponsorship of the Minnesota Vikings while we evaluate the facts and circumstances.
If you want a tipping point in this whole mess, this might be it. Always, ALWAYS follow the money.
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