It is unfortunate that the NFL has drawn so much of the wrong type of attention over the actions of a few men in recent weeks. This weekend another story – but one with a notable twist – has erupted in Minnesota. All star Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been suspended and will not play tomorrow following legal actions resulting in Adrian turning himself in to the police on charges of injury to a child.
Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson landed in Houston and turned himself in to authorities in Montgomery County, Texas, early Saturday where he was booked on a charge of injury to a child before posting $15,000 bond and being released.
Peterson arrived at the jail and was let in through a side entrance and authorities released his mug shot a short time later, according to the sheriff’s office.
A statement from Sheriff Tommy Gage said a grand jury “true billed” Peterson on Thursday, and the arrest warrant was issued at 2:47 p.m. CT on Friday.
The press is having a field day with this already as talking heads continue to pile on the NFL, citing Peterson as the latest evidence of why Roger Goodell needs to be forced from his office. But I would advise caution on this particular story. Both the law and Peterson’s camp are still being close mouthed on the details, but it apparently involved Peterson taking a “switch” to his son’s backside in an act of discipline. One CNN anchor was describing the boy’s condition as possibly amounting to potentially serious injuries. For his part, Peterson is already doing a mea culpa on Twitter.
Peterson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, released a statement saying the charge involves the use of a “switch” to spank Peterson’s son — the same type of discipline Peterson experienced as a child growing up in east Texas.
“Adrian has never hidden from what happened,” Hardin said in the statement. “He has cooperated fully with authorities and voluntarily testified before the grand jury for several hours.
“Adrian will address the charges with the same respect and responsiveness he has brought to this inquiry from its beginning. It is important to remember that Adrian never intended to harm his son and deeply regrets the unintentional injury.”
To repeat, I wouldn’t rush to judgement on Peterson here until we know the full extent of the “unintentional injury” to the boy. Clearly there are lines which even the most strident parental disciplinarians can not and should never cross. If the child was whipped to the point where he was bleeding or there was deep tissue bruising, etc. then Peterson must be taken to task. But if the injury in question was some red marks or minor welts, it’s perfectly possible that the running back was trying to impart a lasting lesson about misbehavior and prevent his boy from heading down the wrong path in life. Some reports on CNN are claiming that Peterson used a “willow switch” with the branches stripped off and “shoved some leaves in the boy’s mouth” but, again, there is no confirmation of it.
I know it’s unfashionable these days to suggest that the sparing the rod tends to spoil the child, but our overly sensitive society can and does go too far on these matters at times. I don’t know what sort of “switch” (which CNN described as a “tree branch”) Peterson employed, but in my family it was a large, heavy wooden spoon which my mother kept in the drawer next to the sink. (And I can tell you, my brother and sister and I walked in a wide circle around that drawer when visiting Mom well into our 30s.) If the spoon failed to impart the correct lesson and the case was escalated to my Dad, you could expect to have an unpleasant meeting with his belt. And yes, I had welts on my backside as a young boy on more than one occasion. (What can I say? I was kind of wild at times.) But it rarely happened once I was in fourth grade or so. Why? Because I had learned my lesson, knew where the lines were which I shouldn’t cross and was scared to cross them. It was only in later years that I came to appreciate the lessons I learned and how it helped me adapt to being a better adult.
Again, this is not a blanket endorsement of Peterson. We don’t have the facts yet to make a call on that, but this is precisely the point which the media should be getting. We don’t know yet. If Adrian truly abused his child he will need to be held to account, and if the willow switch description is correct and his son was bleeding, that’s going to be over the line. But even though such confirmation is not yet available, that’s not stopping the cable chatterboxes from already using this incident as fuel to toss on the fire of Goodell’s potential pyre. Let’s dial it back and get the facts.