Let’s just say that the front offices of the Minnesota Vikings have been kept very, very busy over the last few days. Initially praised after placing star running back Adrian Peterson on the inactive list when child-abuse charges emerged, the team faced an avalanche of criticism when they unexpectedly reinstated him to the roster on Monday. After protests from fans, media, and most importantly corporate sponsors, the Vikings ran a reverse and put him on an exempt list, suggesting Peterson’s season is over:
The NFL certainly approves:
Pressure on the Vikings to bench Adrian Peterson mounted Tuesday, and early Wednesday morning the team gave in.
The Vikings announced shortly after midnight they have placed the star running back on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list, which will keep him away from the team while the legal process involving his child abuse case plays out. He will also be paid while he sits out.
The team’s statement indicated it consulted with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The NFl released a statement saying, “This is a good decision that will allow Adrian Peterson to resolve his personal situation and the Vikings to return the focus to the football field.”
That was a change from the team’s position on Monday, which as Tony Massarotti says doesn’t shower glory on the Vikings:
Peterson was deactivated by the Vikings on Friday, hours after a warrant was issued in his home state. Peterson was not at TCF BankStadium on Sunday as the Vikings lost their home opener 30-7 to the New England Patriots. The team’s top decisionmakers decided a day later to welcome Peterson back to the team.
“We believe he deserves to play while the legal process plays out,” Spielman said at a news conference Monday, which was not attended by the team’s owners.
Peterson’s case differs from Ray Rice in that regard. Rice had admitted to the assault on his now-wife Janay, and the case had been adjudicated in court, albeit in a manner dissatisfactory to many considering the video that emerged this month. Peterson admits to using a switch on his son, but denies that it amounts to child abuse, and has yet to have his day in court. At least one other player, 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald, continues to play despite an arrest for domestic violence and an ongoing investigation into the incident — although unlike the Peterson case, no charges have been filed.
The decision to let the legal system deal with the issue turned out to be unrealistic for the Vikings. In this case, the market forces of consumers delivered its own verdict on Peterson, at least as an entertainer on the field — which is, after all, the commercial point of professional sports. Is that fair? Arguably not, since Peterson has not been found guilty of a crime (yet) and is being denied a living on the basis of untested allegations (so far), but that’s incidental to consumer and sponsor choices of where to spend their money. It’s not as if Peterson’s being left destitute after seven years of star status in the league; actually, the union’s official position is that this is a “voluntary leave with pay,” so it’s basically a vacation.
Just how much that sensitivity to market forces has heightened comes from a surprising source in the CBS interview. That’s the NFL’s union chief arguing that “pro football is no longer just about a player’s performance on the field” — not as a lament or a protest, but as a wake-up call to his own troops. Considering the heat that the league has taken this year from fans and sponsors, it seems like an overdue call, too.
Oh, and this is totally coincidental, I’m sure:
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the league and the NFLPA have reached agreement on a new drug policy.
The announcement is expected soon, the NFL needs all the other news they can muster to deflect from the shameful way they’ve done business lately with the Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson cases.
Yes, let’s change the subject to drug abuse, which is relatively tame next to the domestic-violence topic that’s been dominating the league this month.