Best Defense is Accepting Consequences: Adrian Peterson

“You have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct.” – NFL on Adrian Peterson Decision

 The purpose of Sports Ethics training is not to make fans feel good. The training is also not to make athletes feel good or their teams or their organizations. Sports Ethics views choices and we view the consequences of those choices — we try our hardest to learn from them. I have no doubt this post will lose me followers. Or it may gain a few.

Adrian PetersonAt the outset I also want to say that this post is not a love letter to Roger Goodell. As someone who speaks on ethics virtually every day of the year, I believe the NFL has done virtually everything in its power to unethically protect its shield for far too long. The NFL and many team owners, in my opinion, have gone out of their way to overlook serious violations of the law on an ongoing basis.

Again, in my opinion, the NFL spent far too long in the shadows watching its players engage in acts that would have landed most of us fans in jail. I blame Goodell, in part, for the laissez fare attitude that allowed this to happen.

So the NFL started to dust off its policies on personal conduct and behavior. It had no choice.

Adrian Peterson and “the switch”

This post is also no love letter to Adrian Peterson. Yes, I get he is a phenomenal football player. For the moment, I will make pretend Adrian Peterson is not a football player with tens of thousands of fans, friends and followers. I will instead pretend he is my co-worker and that I work for a large company.

My co-worker has just been arrested. My co-worker is a big, strong man; a physically powerful and intimidating man. He got angry at his four year-old child because the child was playing around. My co-worker got so mad at his little boy that he jammed the child’s mouth with leaves so he couldn’t cry out and then he took a stick and beat the little boy so bad that he had to go to the hospital. When the doctors examined the child, they found bleeding, welts and bruises all over his body, including damage to his testicles.

There is also psychological harm and that will manifest itself later; over and over and over. When my co-worker was hauled before a judge, his rationale was, “My daddy did that to me.” When they went to the four year-old and asked him why he didn’t complain, the child said he was afraid my co-worker and his father would punch him.

My co-worker has been suspended without pay. My co-worker has shown no remorse. My co-worker’s union wants to protect him.

From what?

It is 2014, almost 2015. It is not 1855 or 1935. We have learned a lot. We have physicians who treat cases of child abuse – and they must report those cases to the police. We have child psychologists and adult psychologists who understand that we are not “rubber bands.” When children break, they sometimes break for good. We have child protection laws. For example, Adrian Peterson’s four-year old child cannot work in a factory or metal foundry.

Adrian Peterson’s child can play in a nursery school or attend a pre-kindergarten class; he should not be in a hospital after being beaten by a professional football player. You can justify it anyway you want it. Because your Great-grandfather beat your grand-father, and your father beat you into a hospital bed, does not make things OK.

Here is where the union meets the fans and meets Roger Goodell.

If the player’s union and its many lawyers, goes to war with the NFL and its many lawyers, and Peterson’s suspension without pay is reduced from six games to three, what exactly has been gained? Who has won?

Where is the four year-old child in all of this?

IF another case emerges where another football player uses a chain or a paddle or a cattle-prod on his three year-old girl, will we also support the union to get his job back? If you found out that your co-worker has done this before would you want to work with him? I think not.

The penalties for unethical behavior must be consistent. Whether a co-worker or a professional football player.

Adrian Peterson made a choice. He didn’t consult you or me when he made it. Now he must live with the consequences; accept them, and understand what he did.


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