Vikings clearly should have taken more time before reinstating Adrian Peterson
Via text messages, interviews with police and a public statement, Adrian Peterson has been both clear and cavalier in acknowledging hitting one of his 4-year-old sons with a switch.
This, he conveyed, is the way he chooses to discipline his young children, either unaware or unconcerned that behavior he calls "whoopings" so alarmed authorities they indicted him for it.
As such, it would be terribly naïve and shortsighted to assume this was an isolated incident. Peterson has a reported six young children – one passed away last year at the hands of an abusive boyfriend of the mother.
So why would he have only employed his system of discipline, the kind that got him charged last week with "reckless or negligent injury to a child" in Montgomery (Texas) County, on that one boy, that one time? Not to mention, experts will tell you, the level of injury his one son sustained does not suggest this was the first time he laid hands – or stick – on the kid.
Almost on cue, Houston television station KHOU reported Monday of an incident from June 2013 involving a then-4-year-old son from a different mother. The boy was visiting Peterson at his home in Spring, Texas, and returned with an injury to his face.
The story includes a photo of "a head wound to the boy covered by two bandages. Other photos, allegedly taken weeks later, reveal a scar over his right eye."
In text messages obtained by KHOU, Peterson acknowledges getting physical with the boy:
Mother: "What happened to his head?"
Peterson: "Hit his head on the Carseat." [sic]
Mother: "How does that happen, he got a whoopin' in the car."
Peterson: "I felt so bad. But he did it his self."
This has not risen to a criminal level – TMZ reports Peterson was not charged on this account because the injury wasn't suffered by a direct strike, and Peterson's attorney said a witness said Peterson "did nothing inappropriate with his son." But when the child hit his head accidentally while Peterson was "punishing him." It remains an ugly story and unfortunate coincidence – another bloodied 4-year-old? – that should continue to ratchet up concerns about what's occurred during other discipline sessions.
The Peterson case has quickly dissolved into a cultural battle over how parents should discipline their children. Regardless of opinion however, the view of authorities is clear: They charged Peterson with a crime in the most recent case.
Which brings this entire ordeal back to the Minnesota Vikings, who after deactivating Peterson for Sunday's game, reversed course on Monday and said he would return to action this weekend.
They claimed, somewhat oddly, that Peterson's due process needs to be honored. That's fine except it broke precedent from a 2011 case involving another player (he was suspended with pay until a case of domestic violence was resolved). In this case, however, Peterson has essentially acknowledged he did what he's accused and the case is going to come down to his lawyer convincing a jury this should be allowable parenting.
Due process was a cop-out of a reason, but that isn't even the most head-scratching issue here.
Bringing Peterson back leads the team blindly into what they should have foreseen were additional, and potentially even more horrific, stories of alleged child abuse. The Vikings said Monday night they were aware of the 2013 allegation, but even if the claims don't rise to criminal cases, there is the possibility of civil cases being brought by the children's mothers. The headlines will be just as ugly.
The Vikings can't possibly know what, if anything, is coming next.
The uncertainty was enough for Radisson Hotels to pull their corporate sponsorship of the team.
"Radisson takes this matter very seriously particularly in light of our long-standing commitment to the protection of children," the company announced Monday. "We are closely following the situation and effective immediately … while we evaluate the facts and circumstances. "
The Vikings can't claim that they'll be stunned if/when more comes out. Peterson's own words lose him the benefit of the doubt. He's all but said there is more.
"Never do I go overboard!" Peterson wrote in a text message that came out from last week's case.
You want to trust Peterson's definition of "overboard" right now?
"All my kids will know, hey daddy has the biggie heart but don't play no games when it comes to acting right," Peterson also wrote.
All my kids … These are his own text messages.
So when's the next allegation? And how ugly could that one be? And why would the Vikings, in this environment, willingly put themselves in such a predicament they are stuck defending Adrian Peterson no matter what tomorrow brings?