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.