Adrian Peterson wanted a quick resolution to his status in the NFL after agreeing to a plea bargain in Texas to misdemeanor counts relating to allegations of child abuse. Today, he got one, although probably not the outcome he or the Minnesota Vikings desired. The NFL suspended Peterson without pay for the rest of the season after the running back demanded reinstatement under the league’s collective bargaining agreement:
In a letter to Peterson, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “The timing of your potential reinstatement will be based on the results of the counseling and treatment program set forth in this decision. Under this two-step approach, the precise length of the suspension will depend on your actions. We are prepared to put in place a program that can help you to succeed, but no program can succeed without your genuine and continuing engagement. You must commit yourself to your counseling and rehabilitative effort, properly care for your children, and have no further violations of law or league policy.”
The letter said Peterson has three days to appeal the suspension and if he does, Peterson would be put back on the NFL’s exempt list.
Goodell said “the repetitive use of a switch in this instance is the functional equivalent of a weapon, particularly in the hands of someone with the strength of an accomplished professional athlete.”
“Third, you have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct. When indicted, you acknowledged what you did but said that you would not ‘eliminate whooping my kids’ and defended your conduct in numerous published text messages to the child’s mother. You also said that you felt ‘very confident with my actions because I know my intent.’ These comments raise the serious concern that you do not fully appreciate the seriousness of your conduct, or even worse, that you may feel free to engage in similar conduct in the future,” Goodell added.
There may be more than this than just a lack of remorse over the incidents, though. The NFL wanted to hold a hearing with Peterson and/or his representatives present yesterday, but Peterson refused. He argued that the NFL’s actions in placing him on the exempt list was supposed to last only as long as it took to resolve the criminal charges against him. The NFLPA backed Peterson in a statement issued later in the morning:
“The decision by the NFL to suspend Adrian Peterson is another example of the credibility gap that exists between the agreements they make and the actions they take,” the NFLPA statement said. “Since Adrian’s legal matter was adjudicated, the NFL has ignored their obligations and attempted to impose a new and arbitrary disciplinary proceeding.
“The facts are that Adrian has asked for a meeting with Roger Goodell, the discipline imposed is inconsistent and an NFL executive told Adrian that his time on the Commissioner’s list would be considered as time served. The NFLPA will appeal this suspension and will demand that a neutral arbitrator oversee the appeal. We call on the NFL Management Council to show our players and our sponsors leadership by committing to collective bargaining so a fair personal conduct policy can be implemented as quickly as possible.”
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith echoed those sentiments during an interview Tuesday on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike,” accusing the NFL of “making it up as they go along.”
The Vikings issued a statement of “respect” for Goodell’s decision:
“The NFL has informed the Vikings of today’s decision regarding Adrian Peterson. We respect the league’s decision and will have no further comment at this time.”
That’s rather interesting, if only for the public-relations aspect of the controversy. The Vikings aren’t going to contend for the title this year anyway, and won’t unless they get their quarterback position in order. They have no particular incentive to cross swords with Goodell while sitting at the bottom of their division, three games back and two under .500 with six games left to play. Better for Zygi Wilf to cater to public opinion here in the Twin Cities in the short term than rush to the defense of a player who hasn’t demonstrated a lot of remorse over the discipline of his sons.
Still, one doesn’t have to have much sympathy for Peterson to allow that DeMaurice Smith is right about Goodell and the league. They are very obviously making this up as they go, and not doing a very good job of getting a handle on the league’s policy on personal conduct even after several months of scrutiny. Both the league and the players need each other, and need this ugly eruption to get resolved to the satisfaction of their fans. At some point, they’re going to have to recognize that and start working together before both sides inflict lasting damage to their brand.