After much debate and speculation, Commissioner Roger Goodell handed out the league’s punishment to Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
After Peterson pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges linked to the “whooping” of his son in Texas, the NFL suspended him without pay and will not reinstate him until after the 2015 NFL calendar year starts.
The Vikings have repeated their support and offer to welcome back their franchise star upon reinstatement. The NFLPA will appeal the ruling, demanding that a neutral arbitrator provide a new decision.
How the NFL improved the process
Unlike the Ray Rice situation, the NFL seems to have gotten this punishment — and the process to decide the punishment — correct.
Perhaps the abject failure of the league to transmit transparency and account for outsider feedback (as with Rice’s deplorable act) wisened Goodell and his council to improve the process. In this instance, the same private meeting afforded to Rice was offered to Peterson.
However, Peterson’s advisors and the NFLPA suggested he not attend the meeting, citing it wasn’t part of the collective bargaining agreement. Though he has that right as a union member, it may have not been a smart move in this case.
To his credit, Peterson has been forthright and open throughout this process. He told the police the whole truth, as he saw, when he was first questioned. In his mind, no new evidence or revelations would be made known during this private meeting.
However, examining the NFL’s decision does suggest that he would have benefited from sitting down with Goodell, league officials and his management team to understand the punishment and the consequences of his actions.
Why the reinstatement is the bigger deal
The league is suspending Peterson without pay and is refusing to reinstate him until April of next year. The point of the punishment is to address Peterson’s actions off the field and correct the wrong, as it will affect him beyond his NFL career.
In the letter penned by the league to Peterson, Goodell noted:
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.
This is the greater issue of concern and it needs to be addressed before Peterson can resume his career.
It’s well-documented that he has fathered various children in multiple states, such as the one in the criminal case, who lives in Texas with woman Peterson met in Dallas.
All of this happened after one of Peterson’s sons died from abuse by the mother’s live-in boyfriend. Goodell took a bold step in demanding corrective action more so than the state of Texas did. Although, I wonder if he would’ve been judged more harshly if he played for a Texas team or lived primarily in the state during the off season.
By demanding Peterson change his mindset and get therapeutic help, the league is shining the spotlight on the mental health aspect of the situation. Without that meeting, Goodell judged,
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.
Time for cultural change
Goodell used precedent to guide his decisions. Without actual jail time, which Mike Vick and Plaxico Burress served for dogfighting and gun possession respectively, he had to substitute in corrective sentence to mend his ways.
Both mentioned men showed remorse and changed their tune, especially Vick. While some folks think it’s okay to hold dogfighting rings or pack heat going to a club, that isn’t what the NFL wants players thinking.
Other players and stars are making public service ads that run during games to speak out against domestic abuse and call for change amongst their peers. To have this discussion on such a public forum means forcing us to address concerns and break down the walls of race, class and parochialism.
In an era where athletics have seen explosive growth, these people need more responsibility — not less — in order to earn the leadership and virtues that sports taught players, before it became just a big payday..
by Marco Cerino
This post originally appeared at Elite Daily. Reprinted with permission.
Marco works in sports and is a man of many talents and passions. He enjoys walking around cities, drinking craft beers, and watching his Philadelphia sports teams. A 2007 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, he hopes to better understand humanity everyday and that his enjoyment of learning never wanes.
Photo: AP/Ann Heisenfelt