Was Adrian Peterson’s Suspension Fair?
So as many know already, legendary running back Adrian Peterson has been suspended for the remainder of the 2014 season. Peterson is the type of back that comes around once a generation. As my dad sat around and talked about the greatness of Walter Payton, I will sit around and talk to my future kids about Adrian Peterson. But now, it appears AP’s legacy will forever have an indelible mark from the 2014 season. As most know, he was indicted on felony child abuse charges — his use of a switch resulted in some brutal cuts on his kid’s back, thighs and testicles.
After pleading to a lesser charge — thus avoiding jail time — Peterson believed he would be able to play the remaining games of the 2014 season. An NFL executive told him that “his time on the commissioner’s exempt list would be considered as time served.” However on Nov.18, Roger Goodell released a statement stating that the longtime superstar would be suspended for the rest of the season.
In the letter Goodell also claimed, “The timing of your potential reinstatement will be based on the results of the counseling and treatment program set forth in this decision. Under this two-step approach, the precise length of the suspension will depend on your actions. 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.” Dr. Kuchuk, “an instructor in the NYU Department of Psychiatry and a forensic consultant to the New York City District Attorney’s offices and New York courts,” will design the described counseling and treatment plan: and the process of these visits will be assessed during periodic reviews, with the first being on April 15, 2015.
Finally, the reasons for this adjudication goes off the following points, “First, the injury was inflicted on a child who was only four years old. The difference in size and strength between you and the child is significant, and your actions clearly caused physical injury to the child. While an adult may have a number of options when confronted with abuse — to flee, to fight back, or to seek help from law enforcement — none of those options is realistically available to a four-year old child.”
“Second, the repetitive use of a switch in this instance is the functional equivalent of a weapon, particularly in the hands of someone with the strength of an accomplished professional athlete…Third, 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.”
Now, the NFLPA, who has had a problem with Commissioner Goodell’s absolute power as judge, jury and executioner, has gone on record condemning these actions: “The decision by the NFL to suspend Adrian Peterson is another example of the credibility gap that exists between the agreements they make and the actions they take. Since Adrian’s legal matter was adjudicated, the NFL has ignored their obligations and attempted to impose a new and arbitrary disciplinary proceeding…The NFLPA will appeal this suspension and will demand that a neutral arbitrator oversee the appeal.”
So did Goodell make the right decision? Or as DeMaurice Smith, NFLPA Executive Director, alleged, did the “ruling show inconsistency with the Collective Bargaining Agreement?” Well, at the moment the commissioner has the absolute power to suspend Peterson, with the main question being “could this suspension fall under double jeopardy?” The NFLPA has hoped to revise the personal conduct policy at a New York conference in September — they even created a new personal conduct proposal, which has yet to be either accepted or rejected by the commissioner. But in this proposal, the exempt list would be considered a punishment — in most jobs, a suspension with pay is a form of penalty — so technically AP is being punished twice for the same crime. That’s something that also happened with the infamous Ray Rice case — originally he was only suspended for two games, before the video of the incident was released to the public.
This ultimately brings up the next idea that supports the NFLPA’s claim: all of these judgments feel reactionary, as if Goodell is still directly reacting to the very hostile public outcry from the Ray Rice incident. Which begs another question: would Peterson have been as severely punished if Roger was not still picking up the pieces from his aforementioned failures? One can only speculate, but either way, the one consistent thing in both the Rice and Peterson case is how the NFL has done a horrendous job with their disciplinary actions.
Yes, there needs to be some accountability for the athlete’s actions, with Rice’s original suspension being horribly minute. But at the same time, the NFL cannot let public outcry change the original punishment. The commissioner should have taken the blame for the light sentence — which for some reason indicates that marijuana use is worse than spousal abuse — and moved on. Again legally, one cannot be tried or punished for the same crime twice. So as painful as this sounds, Goodell needed to get the sentencing right the first time, thus making the idea of one fallible human having absolute disciplinary power mind-numbingly backwards. At the same time, partial blame of this situation needs to be placed on the NFLPA. Yes, they attempted to revise the personal conduct policy now, but they originally agreed to give Goodell this much power a few years ago.
Now, was Peterson’s suspension right? Maybe it was from a moral standpoint. But from a legal standpoint, the NFLPA and the commissioner need to get on the same page and revise their disciplinary process. Set some grounds for the NFL’s actions and stick to them. If they do not, then as DeMaurice Smith said, the gap between the players and the league will forever worsen — perhaps beyond repair.