On November 18th, 2014 the NFL announced that it will suspend running back Adrian Peterson for the remainder of the NFL season without pay. The league and commissioner Roger Goodell outline that this timeline is based on Peterson’s completion of some counselling that has been suggested by the NFL, after the incident where Peterson struck his son. The NFL was quick to include a provision that outlines any further encounters with law-enforcement would extend this suspension.
Peterson now has three days to file an appeal with the union, and you had better believe the appeal is coming. No formal charges are being filed against Peterson, who reached a plea with the police in Texas that saw him pay a nominal fine and perform community service as a part of the agreement. The players union began an immediate petition to get Peterson re-instated as soon as this agreement was made public, so you can imagine that this suspension won’t sit well.
Here is where the project, and the debate will be made. Peterson did something wrong, wrong enough for him to agree to hours of community service instead of rolling the dice on a jury verdict. With that said, Peterson is a free man who was not convicted of a crime. Legally there is no reason for him not to play. Morally there is a debate, but legally there isn’t one. Goodell really needs to sit down with Peterson and work something out for both their sakes, and to be honest I liked the “Commissioner’s Exemption List” he was on. But either way these decisions are being made unilaterally, without any kind of collaboration.
Peterson, the players union, and maybe even the Vikings want Peterson back this Sunday. Goodell and the NFL front office worry about what kind of message that would send to sponsors and what his involvement would do to the league image. Neither side is wrong in what they believe, but they are taking the stance of “my way or the highway” instead of “where do we want to go today, friend?”
If they did all sit down together, I feel like they’d have come up with something like this; NFL releases a statement that says that Adrian Peterson is cleared to play, he is a free man and this is a free country. The Minnesota Vikings release a statement saying that Peterson will be brought back in slowly. They don’t want him to hurt himself and want to make sure he’s in peak physical form. Peterson releases a statement saying that he’s sorry and that he is voluntarily not going to play until he’s completed some sensitivity training in the next week or two.
Everyone wins here. Peterson gets play this year, and looks like an upstanding member of society. The Vikings get their star player back before the end of the year, while looking like compassionate and caring bosses for allowing Peterson to do this training. Most importantly, the NFL doesn’t go to legal war over anything, and doesn’t come off like an overbearing entity in players lives.
No matter what, someone is going to have a problem with this. Some could argue that Peterson shouldn’t have missed any games to begin with, and he’ll never get those six games back. Others will suggest that he should never again be allowed to play in the NFL. Both have some valid points, but really there isn’t a right answer for this sort of thing. The image of the NFL and Adrian Peterson are damaged, acknowledge that and work towards fixing it. It might be a big undertaking, but a season of 2000 yards begins with a single step.