AnalysisOff-The-Field Issues

2014 Minnesota Vikings: Vikings Reinstate Adrian Peterson, Bungle Presser

The Minnesota Vikings have made the decision to reinstate Adrian Peterson for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints and moving forward, until presumably a legal decision is made. The Wilfs released the following statement:

Today’s decision was made after significant thought, discussion and consideration. As evidenced by our decision to deactivate Adrian from yesterday’s game, this is clearly a very important issue. On Friday, we felt it was in the best interests of the organization to step back, evaluate the situation, and not rush to judgment given the seriousness of this matter. At that time, we made the decision that we felt was best for the Vikings and all parties involved.

To be clear, we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child. At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action. This is a difficult path to navigate, and our focus is on doing the right thing. Currently we believe we are at a juncture where the most appropriate next step is to allow the judicial process to move forward.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and support Adrian’s fulfillment of his legal responsibilities throughout this process.

Adrian Peterson’s statement below:

 

My attorney has asked me not to discuss the facts of my pending case. I hope you can respect that request and help me honor it. I very much want the public to hear from me but I understand that it is not appropriate to talk about the facts in detail at this time. Nevertheless, I want everyone to understand how sorry I feel about the hurt I have brought to my child.

I never wanted to be a distraction to the Vikings organization, the Minnesota community or to my teammates. I never imagined being in a position where the world is judging my parenting skills or calling me a child abuser because of the discipline I administered to my son.

I voluntarily appeared before the grand jury several weeks ago to answer any and all questions they had. Before my grand jury appearance, I was interviewed by two different police agencies without an attorney. In each of these interviews I have said the same thing, and that is that I never ever intended to harm my son. I will say the same thing once I have my day in court.

I have to live with the fact that when I disciplined my son the way I was disciplined as a child, I caused an injury that I never intended or thought would happen. I know that many people disagree with the way I disciplined my child. I also understand after meeting with a psychologist that there are other alternative ways of disciplining a child that may be more appropriate.

I have learned a lot and have had to reevaluate how I discipline my son going forward. But deep in my heart I have always believed I could have been one of those kids that was lost in the streets without the discipline instilled in me by my parents and other relatives. I have always believed that the way my parents disciplined me has a great deal to do with the success I have enjoyed as a man. I love my son and I will continue to become a better parent and learn from any mistakes I ever make.

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. I am someone that disciplined his child and did not intend to cause him any injury. No one can understand the hurt that I feel for my son and for the harm I caused him. My goal is always to teach my son right from wrong and that’s what I tried to do that day.

I accept the fact that people feel very strongly about this issue and what they think about my conduct. Regardless of what others think, however, I love my son very much and I will continue to try to become a better father and person.

I am delighted that he met with a psychiatrist and is having discussions about the nature of discipline and even seems open to changing his parental behavior. The long-term effects of even neglectful damaging behavior are worth significant attention and are more than just the success stories.

I think within that statement there’s still cause for concern, but it’s also the reason that a suspension contingent upon completion of parenting courses is a really useful way to go about it. If  I understand why he goes back to how he was raised, but there is a dangerous precedent there (it’s what caused the incident in the first place). He also has willingly acknowledged that he will not engage in the kind of discipline that he was subject to, given that he was whipped with electrical cords growing up, and that he wouldn’t do that to his children. There is still some significant negotiation for him to do between what was done to him that was useful and what was not useful.

Still, there isn’t much doubt in my mind that he is a loving father, but injuriously misguided—dangerously so. I’m not so sure intent matters too much in regards to how people should move forward except insofar as he isn’t prosecuted for malicious behavior.

After the statements released by both groups and the activation of Adrian Peterson, Rick Spielman took to the podium:

The presser, in a word, was a disaster. Aside from the fact that Rick Spielman was asked to defend a decision he didn’t make, he still did a poor job. The Wilfs should have been up there, but there was no sense of coherence or continuity from the Vikings. The takeaways are as such:

  • The Vikings as an organization made the decision, without the NFL’s involvement.
  • The Vikings knew about the allegations sometime in August, presumably around the time Adrian was asked to testify in front of the grand jury, which is believed to be August 21. When they knew and what they knew is unknown, because Spielman refuses to say.
  • The Vikings maintain that these situations are distinct from Chris Cook, A.J. Jefferson and Caleb King, but not because Adrian Peterson is a better football player than them.
    • One notable difference: all three could easily have been said to have been acting with malicious intent in regards to their specific crimes
    • Though Adrian wasn’t found guilty, neither had been Cook, Jefferson or King at the time of the team’s respective actions against them (to suspend or release)
    • The “intent” standard is not one the Vikings used, and instead they talked about due process—in this case a stark difference from their previous cases, where they acted before the law did.

There are still some confusing takeaways. Spielman acknowledged that the pictures were very disturbing, but could not adequately answer the question of whether or not the team’s moral judgment would be contingent upon a jury’s decision—when asked “Will a jury change what you’ve seen with your eyes,” Spielman responded with “I don’t know, it hasn’t been in front of a jury.”

The Vikings seem rudderless here and in this case, the rudderlessness can be easily interpreted as finding posthoc reasoning for keeping Adrian on the field. That may not necessarily be the case, but if the Vikings think Adrian is a better person than Cook, Jefferson or King—which isn’t actually a difficult case to make—they should say something to that effect.

The distinction between “disciplining a child and going too far” and “abusing a child” (the debate over corporal punishment not withstanding) is one that is being lost—one that deals with the differences between malicious intent and neglectful behavior. The very first question Spielman was asked was about the message it sends to abuse victims, and though that distinction is important in public discussions about Adrian Peterson it is a difficult one to relay in a short presser and perhaps not the best avenue to go—fair or not, there may be a message being sent to abuse victims regardless of the distinction between “going to far” with good intent and malicious intent, and that is the larger question the Vikings needed to address, Spielman in particular.

The historical and larger context of domestic violence and abuse is that far too often, legal recourse seems far away and unlikely, so to defer to a system that many have seen as a failure already creates issues by itself. Further, the Vikings have the information they need, and are deferring their moral judgment to an outside body.

Understandably, due process is an important phrase to keep in mind in most player discipline cases. Untangling the evidence and determining the facts sometimes takes a long time, and it’s important that innocent people not be punished for crimes they didn’t commit. But in this case, there isn’t much new evidence to bring to bear or facts that needed to be unearthed. Peterson, in two separate statements to the police and in a public statement through his lawyer, did the things he is alleged to do. The photos are disturbing, and the doctor who looked at Peterson’s child not only said the marks are consistent with abuse, but consistent with the use of an extension cord.

That’s not to say that Peterson did use an extension cord. I believe him when he says he didn’t. But I think it speaks to the effect of having one of the world’s most powerful athletes using a switch over that of a typical parent or grandparent. We react viscerally to the idea of using an extension cord to discipline a child, and it may be time to consider a similar reaction when the net effect is the same. That the switch curled around and hit not just the child’s back and legs, but also the scrotum and inner thigh is alarming.

In that context, it’s very difficult for observers to credibly expect “due process” to change things. He did what he is said to have done. What has been done is sickening to most observers. He may be well-intentioned, but the Vikings’ message so far is that “what we know isn’t enough,” even though in cases where they knew less and the athletes in question were challenging the facts of the case—Chris Cook, A.J. Jefferson and so on—they decided to move on quickly. Prioritizing the privilege of his ability over the ethics of the act is a disturbing look.

The Vikings did not ask for the indictment from Montgomery County (publicly available through media requests), though the NFL did. Hopefully, the Vikings found a copy of the file through someone else, because of their commitment to due diligence. It sounds like they have. When asked if they did more than speak to Adrian and the attorney, Spielman sidestepped the question. They looked at “the file,” (which we presume to mean the indictment) but they did not answer questions about whether or not they talked to someone besides Adrian.

Usually, I admire Spielman’s ability to say nothing for twelve minutes. It’s an extraordinary skill, especially under fire. Here, it wasn’t appropriate. There is no benefit to avoiding transparency in the process for the Vikings as they deal with a case that cuts at the core values of a society. Spielman refused to discuss when they learned of the case, what new information they said they were working on or how they approached it, only to say it was “different” than with Cook, Jefferson and so on.

And still, it was the Wilfs who made the biggest mistake by not owning their decision and instead trotting out Spielman to do it for them.

Out of the three principal actors today—the Wilfs, Spielman and Adrian—it is surprising that Adrian’s team did a better job. Adrian’s statement speaks to growth and a willingness to learn from his mistakes, as well as owning the fact that he injured his son. It sounds like Adrian has an internal struggle to balance what he has learned about raising children with what ethical standards a society has about this. I hope he resolves everything in a way that best helps the children, and he is at least committed to it.

As for the Vikings, it looks like they were who we thought they were.

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30 Comments

  1. Great writeup. One edit: “but their is a dangerous precedent” should be “there is a”

  2. Good read. I think you did a great job pointing out the ‘intent’ of his actions and not letting it minimalize the effects of his actions. Especially, in light of the charges being negligent/reckless injury. I wonder if abuse is even the correct term. In the subjective sliding moral scale this is certainly less than domestic abuse at the level of Ray Rice.

    We’d all like to know how their actions relate to their alleged information gathering weekend. I believe you retweeted that from someone. Is a 1 game deactivation all they feel was appropriate? They’ve known about this for weeks. Why did they need another couple days to learn more?

  3. Great insight, Arif. What do you think the chances are that the NFL steps in and administers a suspension for AP despite the Vikings’ decision to reinstate him today?

  4. That was a very refreshing read Arif.
    Yesterday, right after the game, I posted a couple of remarks on one of your threads about AD.
    I was way too harsh and I apologize to AD for that.
    I do however agree with you when you said “I think within that statement there’s still cause for concern”

    When AD said; “I have learned a lot and have had to reevaluate how I discipline my son going forward. But deep in my heart I have always believed I could have been one of those kids that was lost in the streets without the discipline instilled in me by my parents and other relatives. I have always believed that the way my parents disciplined me has a great deal to do with the success I have enjoyed as a man. I love my son and I will continue to become a better parent and learn from any mistakes I ever make.”
    My first thought was uh-oh. It sounded like he isn’t quite convinced that what he did was the wrong way to discipline his son.
    I’m pretty sure though that after a little time passes and he has more time for input from others and time to dwell on this, he’ll come around and realize what he did was wrong and not make that mistake again.
    (And hopefully he’ll rush for 200 yards next Sunday)

  5. I have no issues with you Arif, I just disagree. Facts are facts, but the time to make the decision to release AD was not 6-8 hours after this became knowledge. That’s knee jerk..usually not a smart move. It’s like me after a Viking loss…some things I say within a couple hours is usually an overreaction.
    I just didn’t like the “release him now” crowd ranting and raving, that seemed to be popular just hours after. It was an overreaction, plain and simple. The Vikings did the right thing. IMO.
    AD is not a better person than those other guys, he’s a better player. it’s normal that he isn’t treated the same.
    Everyone has their opinion on this. Right or wrong, the Vikings one is all that matter right now.

  6. I’m very disappointed the team went with the due process argument for reinstating him, even more disappointed after reading the statement from Adrian’s team which highlighted a need for Adrian to grow as a parent from this. That is the only angle the team should be using as a reason to re-instate him and if Adrian was agreeable to it, why in the World did they put the ball back in the legal systems court? I would find it much easier to stand behind the team on this if their focus was to provide Adrian a support system and educate him to a level that would maybe one day put him in a position to become a key figure in the fight against child abuse. Wouldn’t that have been a great way for Spielman to answer the question regarding what this move tells victims of abuse? That actually makes sense to me, but instead they are hiding behind due process which I firmly agree does not apply in this case. We know what he did, intent or not, he badly hurt that child. Adrian himself does not dispute the facts and whether what he did falls under the state of Texas’ definition of child endangerment doesn’t really matter at this moment. The team is in a lose lose position with this, but they sure didn’t do themselves any favors with how this was handled. And your darn right they should just come out and say that Adrian Peterson has been a better role model in this community than guys like Cook/Jefferson/and King ever were and because of that deserves a second chance…and a big part of that would entail him being willing to educate people on this topic. They just made it look like the only thing they care about is getting him back on the field Sunday and that can’t be in a case like this.

  7. What’s Adrian’s cap % ?

    He’s a top 10 player in the league, not Chris Cook, sorry how it is, just is..

  8. Just heard a report that AD has been charged with a second abuse charge against another of boys.
    http://www.dailynorseman.com/2014/9/15/6154941/report-adrian-peterson-under-investigation-for-second-abuse-allegation

    Also, just went to check another Viking forum I have been a member of since 2006 and found this;
    Shut down
    Vikings Message Board has been shut down permanently. It will not return. There are two primary reasons.
    1. The Vikings cowardly decision to reinstate a child abuser and think that an apology will make this blow over. We will not stand for this arrogance and we will no longer be the home of any support of the Vikings. We stand for those who cannot defend themselves.
    2. We will not give a voice to thugs who think child abuse is “cultural” or worse, openly advocate child abuse as a reasonable method of punishment. This ends here. Yes, a few board members have ruined it for everyone. Congratulations, assholes.

    WOW!

    1. Wow is right Fran…shut down the whole thing huh? Hope Adam doesn’t go that route.
      That would suck.

      1. I was stunned. That was a REAL good Viking forum (Not as good as VT, of course 🙂

        1. Sounds like some sponsors are following that lead. I wonder what they thought the reaction would be.

  9. The NFL is a business. Many people, myself included, tend to get carried away at times and overstate the role and relevance of sports (particularly football) in our culture. Yes, it’s popular, and yes, people wrongly pedestalize professional athletes, forgetting that running really fast with a football doesn’t make you a hero or a paragon of virtue. However, at the end of the day, it is a business that provides a product for which there is tremendous demand. Their bottom line is the bottom line. We can think whatever we want about AP, Greg Hardy, Ray Rice, etc., but after all the head shaking and hand wringing is done, the only thing that really matters is whether or not we still want the product that’s being offered.

    Would you like a great on-field product as well as a company (the NFL) that promotes every cause you believe in and takes a strong moral stance against all of society’s ills, even when it hurts them? Sure. But if they turn out to be a company providing a great on-field product while worrying more about their finances than anything else, will you still watch the games? I think most people will. The NFL is no better or worse than the NBA, MLB, NHL, McDonalds, Target, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, GE, Apple, Google, AT&T, etc. etc. Companies exist to make money. Most people ether freely or grudgingly accept that.

    If you want to change the way the NFL (or a team) does business, you have to get enough people on you side that you begin affecting their revenue. As I’m sure we’ve all noticed, not everyone sees this issue the same way, not by a long shot. Darren Page absolutely nailed it earlier today when he tweeted “Think of PR storm on 1-10 scale. When indicted, it was basically 10. So Minnesota deactivates, drops to like a 4. Reinstates, it’s a 5 or 6.” and “If they let him play Sunday, it’s still probably an 8 or 9. That’s how these decisions are made.” There you have it, kids. What you call immoral, others call good business. Unless the majority of paying customers begin to despise the decision making enough to stop buying the product, nothing will change. I guess we’ll see which way the crowd decides to go.

    1. Absolutely! Lots of hypocrisy here. Not a double standard on a team, but 63 standards, and by the way, why don’t more people go over to the poor countries and protect the abused over there?

    2. Yes it is a business. So is the sex trade where children are kidnapped and raped for profit. There must be a higher moral road we take besides shaking our heads sadly and then downing a cold one as we watch the next debacle of a game. Have we as a sports culture sunk this low? I hope not. I hope a storm erupts that shocks the owners to the core. I hope Adrian is held accountable by the league he once accused of enslaving him.

  10. Arid I appreciate your intent of objectivity with this issue and taking the middle road. I’ll be honest in saying I’m very surprised that the Vikings ownership took the low road in this. Whatever Peterson has done for the team or community does not eliminate what he has done in injuring a four year old child. He is not being held accountable for a very public display of violence which he does not deny but justifies by claiming to follow past traditions. Minnesota is not Texas. In a progressive state such as this is, I do not believe the Wilf’s fully realize the fuel they just threw on the fire by hoping Rick Speak would dampen the flames of anger ready to erupt. Many are shocked and angry and incensed that our favorite team would look the other way when the star player has beat and wounded a four year old boy. This was purely a financial decision and I hope it backfires because it is simply wrong.

  11. Well, I for one, can no longer watch NFL football. I was teetering on the fence after the Ray Rice fiasco, and this is the final straw. I have been a die hard Viking fan for 43 years…..DIE HARD…but I would not be able to look at myself in the mirror if I still supported this team. Their decision today showed their true colors. I’m turning my back on all things NFL. Won’t watch any more games, canceling my Sunday Ticket, shutting down all my fantasy football leagues. I’m simply done with it all. I’m going to take all that extra time and money I save and spend it on my family. So, in that at least, something positive can happen from all this. Arif, I will miss reading your work and wish you the best, but I am done.

    1. I respect that. I was considering the same. Accepting a moral crime for entertainment’s value is hard to swallow.

    2. To each his own Mark, wish you luck. I’ll be home cheering AD, if he does indeed play, and those Vikings…or cursing them.

  12. I say, good, play him and work it out in the courts. We’re f*cked with out him. “Subversives from within” Bill Parcells. Play the game. The guy gets millions. A huge enterprise needs him. Spanking. Come on you Viking fans,Peterson needs to stop it, but let’s not freak here. I’ve had my ass kicked by my family, no one cares, but ain’t that America. Play him.

  13. I don’t appreciate the use of “due process” that the Vikings are going with. The truth of events are clear by the admission of Adrian himself. If an East Texas court gives him probation and time served I would argue this is insufficient and irrelevant to the Vikings and to what their response should be.

    The only way out of this was to have Adrian get some counseling, and good on him for agreeing to do it, but that does not absolve him in my mind. He has made it clear this is how he sees fit to father and discipline, and has been and is still dismissive that this “discipline” constitutes abuse.

    The second allegation, interesting his babies mamma immediately guessed that he got a whoopin in the car. I hate the fact that we are paying a RB $14mm a year and have to deal with the fact that he is a champion of severe corporal punishment…I’m sorry but I am out and would prefer he no longer played for this team. The hypocrisy of fathering illegitimate children and then beating them while denying wrong doing sickens me. The Vikings can wait for due process, but we all know what this man thinks and what he does to his children and yes it is abuse Adrian.

    I want him gone.

  14. The Question no one seems to be asking…

    Important as a precursor is some context of where I’m coming from…

    -First off, I acknowledge being a fan of both the player and the team and I can admit that if this story had been about say Marshawn Lynch, or LeSean McCoy, I probably would have just rushed to judging him also, as opposed to taking the time to think it through, whereas with Adrian, I of course WANT to believe that he can’t be a “child abuser” so I’ve tried to take a tempered approach and think things all the way through.

    -I’m not yet a parent, so I probably shouldn’t have a strong voice in the “to spank or not to spank” debate…

    -That being said, my stepfather, (and fathers of kids I grew up with) had no problem breaking out the belt… but I am resolved to not use physical force as discipline for my future children… my friends that have kids are happy to advise me that kids can “push your buttons” and that my “resolve to not use physical discipline” will be challenged often, as will my constitution.

    -I didn’t know what a “switch” was until this story came out, and although I get the basics of it now, I have never experienced it firsthand, and so when Adrian talks about the “tail end wrapping around the front of the leg”, unbeknown to him until it was too late, does this literally mean that if the “switch” he chose had been a few inches shorter (so that it was not long enough to “wrap around”) that we would not even be discussing this today?

    -A lot of the outrage stems from the pictures, and the references to “multiple locations on the body”… but if the switch was too long, and was wrapping around the front of the leg, it’s plausible that it was wrapping around far enough that it was striking the scrotum also, (at first) and equally plausible that a natural reaction to this, (even at the age of 4) would be to put a hand down to cover the scrotum, and thus would explain the markings on the hand… people with firsthand experience of this would have to confirm/deny.

    -It occurred to me that when my stepdad had used the belt on me, (which although I don’t agree with doing, I do deem it to have been discipline, not child abuse) but if, in any instance, half of the folded belt ever had slipped out of his hand and enabled the belt to strike my skin, I’m sure I could have produced photos thereafter that would have painted a picture of child abuse, despite the fact that the strike that would be construed by others as having gone overboard would have been completely unintentional in nature.

    -Charles Barkley says “most black parents from the south would be in jail” if what Adrian did is a crime, and there’s a reason people get to be judged by a jury of their peers…not all of us (myself included) can relate to the environment that Adrian grew up in, so I am probably not the optimal person to be his judge or juror…and neither are most of the people posting such strongly judgmental comments everywhere.

    -Part of me wants to take into consideration that if Adrian truly believes that him being disciplined that way as a child was part of what gave him the strength and the drive that enabled him to rise above his surroundings to achieve greatness, then one could understand why he would feel a desire/obligation to instill these same things in his own sons, (and clearly, he believes “toughening them up” is a good thing), but part of me also feels that this is antiquated thinking, and that we can’t ever truly evolve as a species if we continue to mindlessly carry on traditions/practices that were employed by the generations before us.

    -I don’t believe Adrian is a “child abuser” and I believe that all those in the media that keeps using that term, (instead of the term “negligent behaviour” or “overly excessive discipline”) should be taken to task for doing so, but I also believe that Adrian is maybe just not all that smart unfortunately, (particularly in not recognizing that his ability to rise above the environment he grew up in should have inspired him to want to provide a different childhood experience for his kids… on every level) and I also think that Adrian’s judgement and parenting skills both leave a lot to be desired.

    -When I say I don’t believe Adrian is a child abuser, I do not say this lightly… or blindly… for those of you who have decided you are an authority on the matter, kindly consider the following if you choose to re-evaluate your position at some point.
    “Spanking” (in whatever form) is a function of a child having done something “wrong” that ostensibly made him “deserve” the punishment… before my mother re-married and I was raised by my “real” dad, understand that the only thing I ever did “wrong” was to make the mistake of being within striking distance whenever he got into a bad mood, or I’d make the “mistake” of being the first one to get home from school on a day where he had spent the afternoon getting good and drunk.
    Also understand that “spanking” is not in the repertoire of a child abuser… punched, yes, kicked, yes, had cigarettes, beer bottles, ashtrays, etc. thrown at me, yes, dragged down the stairs by my hair, yes, choked, yes, thrown into walls, tables, book cases, etc., yes, but “spanked”, HA, in my wildest dreams maybe…

    Question…

    -At the end of the day, my mind’s made up already that Adrian really needs to try to change his thinking and approach to parenting, but as far as being branded a criminal, the root issue should come back to intent, and the one thing I’ve not heard anyone talk about so far is this…
    The event happened back in May, seemingly on a visit where the mother of the kids put them on a plane to go visit their dad… So I want to know if there have been instances since then where the mother put the kids on the plane to go see their dad? Because if so, that would be a strong indicator that the mother does not believe that Adrian is a “child abuser”… (or it would unfortunately mean the mother also can be construed as having acted negligently)… and so I think the mother’s perspective will be the loudest voice as it pertains to intent, and I’m trying to reserve judgement on Adrian’s “intent” until I hear from the one person who is likely the most qualified to comment on same, and I wish others would give him the same benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

    1. The DA in Texas keeps using the word “branch”, probably because it sounds like a big log; the “wrap around the leg” element, of course, negates that wording.

      There are a lot of people grabbing onto this for reasons of their own that have nothing whatever to do with the reality of ‘child abuse”, particularly those who idiots who wish to outlaw, rather than refine corporal punishment.

      Charles Barkley is right, except that he limits the population of “child abusers” too much. Half of the NFL would have been better off if they got spanked a lot more (properly, open hand, etc.) while growing up.

  15. Did someone seriously just compare the NFL to the illegal sex trade where children are kidnapped and raped for profit? I really hope I read that wrong. In case it isn’t obvious, nothing “the NFL” has done or not done is at issue here. The NFL doesn’t even profit from “children being harmed.” It’s not like the Vikings somehow benefit from AP using corporal punishment, much less from him causing bodily harm to his kids.

    The NFL exists to make money, but some people also want them to exist to promote social change. Even Roger Goodell suggested as much in some of his recent comments. I’m calling BS. We “want” them to oppose bad things and support good things, but I’m willing to bet that most people want to see a good product on the field even more. Apparently, the NFL thinks so as well. So, unless people become upset to the point that it starts to have a significant impact on revenue, nothing will change. In that sense, I think most of the people who are outraged over their handling of the AP case (or Greg Hardy, etc.) are hypocrites. You want the league to change, but not enough that you’re willing to actually do anything about it. Talk is cheap, but voting with your time and money takes guts.

  16. I really like Arif and enjoy his writing on football. Here I have to take exception. Maybe it is my visceral reaction to the suggestion last Friday about addressing the issue by donating money to Marian Wright Edelman, whose foundation is not dedicated to the issue of parental discipline- it’s an advocacy organization for public financial support of poor children, which is not the issue here (and I have other issues with the CDF just as real natural conservationists have issues with Greenpeace and genuine women’s advocates have problems with NOW).

    It seems to me that the expressed desire to avoid discussions about the propriety of corporal punishment of children is the unavoidable element of this story- if you want to outlaw spanking as an archaic artifact of a primitive pre-Spock era, you see it one way; if you sincerely believe “spare the rod, spoil the child” you tend to see it another way. And commentary by the likes of Kevin Siefert comes across as the usual self-important puffery of sportwriters who believe that they should actually be Very Impordant Pundits helping us all to achieve World Peace instead of writing about football for ESPN. Spare us.

    If all this was really about a father who loves his kids, has a very 1930’s idea about how discipline should be administered, but about whom there is no supportable mens rea in evidence for a defined crime that requires that “guilty mind”, the matter would have been taken care of quietly several months ago with training, and custody rights conditioned on approved discipline styles supervised by the child protection authorities.

    The prosecutor’s legal position is that Peterson’s conduct constituted either “criminal negligence” or “recklessness “ The Texas penal code defines these as follows:

    (c) A person acts recklessly, or is reckless, with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.
    (d) A person acts with criminal negligence, or is criminally negligent, with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.

    So, Grant is saying that in East Texas, where it seems, according to Peterson’s comments about his own upbringing, ordinary and customary for a parent to discipline kids with a switch broken off a bush and use it to paddle the offending bare derriere, it would be deemed that it “consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk”, or “constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise”?

    The silly question answers itself. One minute the prosecutor calls the switch a “branch” to make it sound more threatening, then he talks about how the flexible instrument curved around the leg, so it had to be an electrical cord. That does sound worse, but there is absolutely no evidence of that, and such speculation does not belong in legal cases. The most likely description is exactly that which Peterson has provided, not the fervid speculations of all the national bloggers or an ambitious DA.

    Of course the “gross deviation” is from standards believed in personally by the sorts of people who go to work for child protective services- but that does not obviously describe Montgomery County in Southern Texas. In many ways, it doesn’t even fully describe Minnesota. Do we believe that this is not the best way to discipline in today’s world? Or even the “right way” to spank? Of course- I was spanked as a child, including with switches, and hated it, and that is one reason it was not how we disciplined our own kids.

    But does anyone seriously believe that this would be a public issue if the person involved were not a famous athlete? It is clear that Adrian Peterson is not a bright person- whether the telling fact is his fathering of multiple children by different mothers, or the failure to modify his approach to child discipline- and he has some, shall we say, “questionable” ideas on that topic. He does not seem to learn very quickly from experience.

    But no one anywhere has even alleged that he pounded his son, or took action because he was angry and thus beat the child up or threw him against the wall. He is simply a man who needs to learn how to be a better parent to kids he apparently loves, and why the better approach is better.

    Those who push for other outcomes here are neither advocates for the kids, the mothers, or any other party- they are looking for personal publicity or to promote some previously held view (corporal punishment of children by parents should be outlawed, or government should spend stadium dollars on higher food stamps, better low income housing, or bigger welfare checks instead, or government needs to stop the evils of big time football, etc.) Here, one suspects that the district attorney is looking to run for higher office, because the indictment- on the second attempt after it was initially declined by the grand jury- of something that would be more effectively handled in many different ways suggests an agenda that has nothing to do with the specific case at hand.

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