With pressure from state government and corporate sponsors mounting, the Minnesota Vikings did an about-face early Wednesday morning and decided to remove Adrian Peterson from all team activities until his child-abuse case in Montgomery County is resolved, placing the Pro Bowl running back on the exempt/commissioner's permission list.
The decision, which comes just two days after the Vikings had reinstated Peterson following deactivation for the Vikings-Patriots game last Sunday, was announced in a statement by team owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf:
"After giving the situation additional thought, we have decided this is the appropriate course of action for the organization and for Adrian\. We are always focused on trying to make the right decision as an organization.
"We embrace our role -- and the responsibilities that go with it -- as a leader in the community, as a business partner and as an organization that can build bridges with our fans and positively impact this great region. We appreciate and value the input we have received from our fans, our partners and the community.
"While we were trying to make a balanced decision yesterday, after further reflection we have concluded that this resolution is best for the Vikings and for Adrian. We want to be clear: we have a strong stance regarding the protection and welfare of children, and we want to be sure we get this right. At the same time we want to express our support for Adrian and acknowledge his seven-plus years of outstanding commitment to this organization and this community. Adrian emphasized his desire to avoid further distraction to his teammates and coaches while focusing on his current situation; this resolution accomplishes these objectives as well.
"We will support Adrian during this legal and personal process, but we firmly believe and realize this is the right decision. We hope that all of our fans can respect the process that we have gone through to reach this final decision."
Peterson was indicted last week in Montgomery County, Texas, on a felony count of reckless or negligent injury to a child, a charge which stems from an incident that saw Peterson whipping his four year old son with a "switch," reportedly leaving bruises and wounds on the boy's body. Peterson has said he was disciplining his son the same way his own father disciplined him while growing up in Palestine, Texas and that he didn't intend to hurt him.
Accusations also surfaced this week that Peterson, in 2013, injured another of his young sons in Texas, this one with a different mother, although charges were never brought. Those allegations reportedly were filed to the state's Child Protective Services agency, according to Houston CBS affiliate KHOU.
The Vikings' deactivation of Peterson comes in the face of growing pressure from multiple corners, governmental and corporate.
First, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton spoke out on Tuesday, demanding that the Vikings suspend Peterson until his case is resolved. Dayton worked closely with Vikings ownership the past several years to secure funding for a $1 billion stadium for the team, which is currently under construction.
Additionally, local team sponsors such as Radisson Hotels and personal sponsors of Peterson such as Castrol Motor Oil and Mylan Inc. have suspended or terminated all activity with the team and the player. Nike stores in the Mall of America and local outlet malls in the Twin Cities have removed Peterson's jersey from their shelves.
This all comes at a time where corporate pressure on the NFL as a whole to address criminal issues in its player community is at an all-time high. Anheuser-Busch, McDonald's and VISA have all publicly addressed concern over the league's handling of player conduct, in the wake of not only the Peterson incident but also the spate of domestic violence crimes against women from high-profile players like Ray Rice and Greg Hardy.
Peterson's next scheduled court date is October 8, although he could negotiate to have the matter resolved at an earlier date. Montgomery County first assistant district attorney Phil Grant said it could be several months before the case would go to trial, which obviously would mean Peterson's missing the balance of the 2014 season if the Vikings maintain their current stance.
Peterson's agent, Ben Dogra, told The Associated Press, "This is the best possible outcome given the circumstances."
"Adrian understands the gravity of the situation, and this enables him to take care of his personal situation. We fully support Adrian, and he looks forward to watching his teammates and coaches being successful during his absence."
Peterson tweeted the following overnight:
— Adrian Peterson (@AdrianPeterson) September 17, 2014
The Vikings play the 0-2 New Orleans Saints on the road this Sunday, where it's expected that third year running back Matt Asiata will get the start in place of Peterson. Asiata had 13 carries for 36 yards on Sunday in a 30-7 loss to the New England Patriots.
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