Thursday, September 18, 2014


Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson wants you to know he is “not a child abuser.” Peterson took to Twitter this week to say this: "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 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 ... 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."

These comments came after Peterson, 29, beat his son with a wooden switch, resulting in his indictment for “reckless or negligent injury to a child” on September 12, 2014. True to its own often negligent form, the NFL announced Peterson would indeed still play in the following Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints. After pictures surfaced of the child’s injuries from his father’s disciplinary action, the public outcry swelled. Along with all of the other recent NFL scandals, finally some advertisers began to either pull out or express their concern. It was only then that the Minnesota Vikings management announced that Peterson was suspended.

Adrian Peterson
It has subsequently been reported that this was not the first time Peterson faced accusations of child
abuse. In June 2013, another of his children reportedly showed wounds that were inflicted by his father. When asked by the mother how those wounds on his forehead came to be, Peterson told her the child had hit his head on the car. The mother asked if he was hitting the child at the time, and Peterson said, “Yep.” No charges were filed in the 2013 incident. Peterson was not so fortunate this time.

The NFL, to put it mildly, has been lax in its approach to its players’ bad behavior. ESPN’s Tom Jackson summed it up nicely: “We started the week with players beating up women and we ended it with players beating up children. We are in a very serious state here in the National Football League.” So, what are we really dealing with here? From my perspective we are dealing with an industry – professional football – that necessarily includes a violent infrastructure. Watch football today compared with football 30 years ago, and the game is far more aggressive. There was some discussion of this on ABC’s “The View.” Here is what co-host Rosie O’Donnell said, and it makes
sense to me.

Now, if you are a hardcore NFL supporter, and/or if you don’t particularly care for Rosie O’Donnell, you may have had some trouble hearing what she just said. But don’t shoot the messenger. Here we have an entire league made up largely of 20-something-year-old men, flooded with testosterone, making way too much money for any 20-something to handle. The NFL has really taken a sort of “boys will be boys” approach to these guys, and often turned a blind eye to their mistreatment of women, their abuse of alcohol, their use of performance-enhancing drugs and even their mistreatment of their own children. As stated above, shortly after Peterson’s indictment became public, the Vikings had still planned to play him in Sunday’s game.

And therein is the essential problem: The NFL is all about its image, to the detriment of many people in the lives of its players. Not until something surfaces publicly does the NFL do anything about anything bad in their ranks. Not until the Miami Dolphins’ Jonathan Martin walked off the field and quit the team did the issue of bullying even enter the consciousness of NFL execs, even though they knew what went on in locker rooms coast to coast. In the Martin case, the chief bully was Dolphins lineman Richie Incognito, who had a history of overly-aggressive behavior on and off the field. In fact, he had become known as the NFL’s “dirtiest player.” With full knowledge of Incognito’s “issues,” the Dolphins did nothing until Martin walked. What “issues,” you ask? Well, shortly after being suspended by the Dolphins, Incognito attacked his Ferrari, valued at $295,000, with a baseball bat. By February of this year, Incognito was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. In August, the mentally disturbed, serial harasser was cleared by the NFL to play again, and he is free to sign with any team. The buzz is that he and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are pretty chummy right now.

 And of course, not until Ray Rice, 27 punched his then fiancé (now wife) to unconsciousness in an elevator did the NFL suddenly show a social concern about domestic violence. Just days later similar
Ray and Janay Rice
news emerged about Greg Hardy, 26, who has been charged with throwing his girlfriend in a bathtub and onto a sofa covered with guns before threatening to kill her. Then came word that Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer, 25, was arrested for aggravated assault against his wife. That was just before we learned that San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald, 29, was arrested on a felony charge of domestic violence. Earlier this month NY Jets rookie Quincy Enunwa, 22, was arrested on a domestic violence charge of “grabbing the victim by her ankle and pulling her off a bed causing her to strike and injure both her head and finger,” according to the police report.

All of this follows the long-reported legal battle between the league and former players who suffered head injuries that in many cases debilitated them. Some even committed suicide. In the end, the Federally tax-exempt NFL, which reportedly takes in $9-10 billion dollars a year, settled the case for $765 million. If that sounds like a lot, it’s not. There are roughly 4500 players involved in the suit, many suffering from dementia, depression or Alzheimer's that they blamed on blows to the head. Once again, the NFL did nothing until the situation was made public. The suit alleges the NFL knew about the proliferation of head injuries, concealed the information and routinely sent injured players back onto the field.

If anything good has come out of the NFL’s inexcusable “business model,” it may be this: The Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal re-ignited the national conversation about violence in relationships. Within two days of the Rice story being made public, The National Domestic Violence Hotline reported an 84 percent increase in phone calls. The Adrian Peterson child abuse case has resulted in a firestorm of discussions about neglect and mistreatment
Brett Favre
of children. Hyper-awareness of potential long-term consequences of a football career has caused some players like Denver Broncos guard John Moffit, and Cincinnati Bengals guard Jacob Bell to quit football for fear of ending up physically damaged or dead. Even veteran NFL player Brett Favre came forward to say if he had a son he would hesitate to let him play the “violent game of football.”

Let’s get real about the NFL. The league’s management certainly encourages overly-aggressive playing and often poor sportsmanship. Young guys just out of college are being paid exorbitant salaries, with no guidance in how to handle sudden fame and unlimited cash. Very bad behavior off the field is routinely overlooked, as long as the players bring money and attention to the franchise. Even criminal behavior is sometimes tolerated, so long as it doesn’t make headlines. The NFL is now the emperor who has no clothes. We all know its dirty secrets and we are beginning to pay attention. The good news? Sponsors are speaking up – sponsors like Nike, Radisson Hotels, Verizon Wireless, Pepsico, Federal Express, Marriott and Cover Girl has all issued statements questioning the values of the league.

And the NFL knows it’s in deep trouble, when none other than Anheuser Busch says this: “We are disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season. We are not yet satisfied with the league's handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code. We have shared our concerns and expectations with the league.”

 I smell radical change in the air. Stay tuned.

No comments: