Sports & Outdoors

Another week, another NFL controversy: An op-ed on the Adrian Peterson child abuse scandal

Adrian Peterson is the first in a long line of players who may fall victim to the new policies surrounding the suspension of NFL player Ray Rice. Peterson was convicted a mere four days after Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, issued a letter to the NFL owners stating the terms of the new, more severe, Personal Conduct Policy.

“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,”  Peterson said in a press release after he was bailed out of jail. Peterson is alleged to have beaten his four-year-old son with a wooden switch in his off-season home in Texas after the child was disobedient to Peterson. He is also alleged to have beaten his other four-year-old child, although no evidence has surfaced in regards to that claim.

Under the old NFL Personal Conduct Policy, Peterson would only serve a two-game suspension for a first conviction of physical child abuse. But after Roger Goodell received criticism for his handling of the domestic abuse case with Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice, a new policy was issued in a letter Goodell wrote to the owners of the NFL. A ban of six games­—and possible further discipline—is the punishment under the new Personal Conduct Policy for a first offense of domestic abuse provided that no children are witness to the act and that a pregnant woman isn’t the subject of the abuse. A more severe lifetime ban is the punishment for a second conviction of physical domestic abuse under the new policy.

Immediately after Peterson was convicted the Vikings decided to deactivate him for their game against the New England Patriots on Sunday Sept. 14. Many community members called for further action on the case in a press conference Roger Goodell held on Sept. 9 after the Peterson case went public, with numerous people bandying about possible punishments like lifetime suspension and jail time, which is not even warranted under the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy. After deciding to reactivate Peterson ahead of their week-three game against the New Orleans Saints, the Vikings received pressure from the public and powerful individuals like the governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, who were calling for Peterson to serve suspension from Vikings activities until the legal proceedings regarding his case are put through. In their final action so far, the Vikings decided to deactivate Peterson for the second time in a week to avoid appearing sympathetic to his plight.

This situation is full of defamatory remarks about Peterson, but many of them seem vain and transparent when you take a second glance at them. Criticism should not be leveled as heavily toward Peterson for the simple fact that what he allegedly did was a whole lot less criminal than the charges against fellow player Ray Rice, who essentially caused Peterson’s penalty to escalate in severity. Further scrutiny of the complaints from notable people reveals that they are all from politicians, meaning that such scrutiny is not necessarily based in true altruism and may in fact be motivated by something selfish. Take Minnesota governor Dayton: he stands to gain a stronger support base for his re-election campaign with the Democratic Party in Minnesota by criticizing Peterson. I personally know nothing of Dayton, but from an outsider’s perspective, his criticism seems weighted down by alterior motives. On the side of the Peterson supporters are the people who actually know him personally. In an article published on the Pioneer Press website, a large proportion of Peterson’s teammates are quoted in support of the running back.

“I know it’s a touchy subject right now, but nobody really knows what happened. But where we’re from, we got whupped. You get punishment like that. [Peterson] was whupped like that. I was whupped like that. My little brothers were whupped like that. My little cousins,” Peterson’s teammate Chase Ford said.

The previous quote is what gives me the most solace. In my opinion, Peterson should not be attacked as a criminal because he just has a different understanding of the world than the people who are criticizing him do. Peterson himself has said multiple times that he doesn’t believe that what he did was wrong and until someone can provide solid facts that he was maliciously beating his child, then I’m inclined to believe that Peterson is not guilty of criminal wrongdoing.