I am speaking and traveling today, so this will be necessarily and uncharacteristically succinct. I’ll return to many of these issues later.
Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson turned himself in to Montgomery County, Texas, authorities early Saturday morning. He was booked into the Montgomery County jail at 1:06 a.m. CT and released at 1:35 a.m. CT after posting the $15,000 bond.
Peterson had been indicted by a grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child and a warrant had been issued for his arrest. He flew back early Saturday morning to Minnesota, where he has been deactivated for the Vikings’ home game against the Patriots on Sunday.
This has ratcheted up the focus on NFL player violence in the wake of the still roiling Ray Rice domestic violence controversy. Many fans, as in the case of Rice, are protesting the team’s punishment of Peterson.
- The Peterson incident has reignited the public debate about spanking, because Peterson referred to what he did to his child is spanking. This is not the context for broader discussion of corporal punishment. Photo’s of Peterson’s child show that he was badly hurt and brutalized. It doesn’t matter what Peterson says he was doing, or what he called it. It was criminal assault and battery, and brutal. This is like using Rice’s punch to open a discussion about proper elevator etiquette.
- Peterson used a switch on his son, which is a euphemism for “a tree branch.” Various “experts” have attempted to justify what Peterson did by arguing that such punishment is common in the South, and part of African American culture. ESPN has had several black athletes “explain” the abuse this way, including ex-NBA star Charles Barkley. (If you have Charles Barkley weigh in on an ethics issue, that tells me that you have no clue whatsoever regarding ethics.) This is no argument at all, but simply an “everybody does it” rationalization, and an obvious one.
- CNN, with Chris Cuomo in high dudgeon, used this false equivalency to argue that all corporal punishment is child abuse. One of his experts quoted dubious stats—if these kind of statistics don’t set off your ethics alarms, then you are doomed to be the victim of advocacy group lies forever—that the “average” four-year-old has been hit thousands of times. What does the average child, if that is indeed an accurate statistic, have to do with my child? Why should I be prevented from a a ritual, controlled, non-violent and anger free spanking of my son three times in his entire life because other parents are abusive?
- Peterson constitutes the human equivalent of a can of worms for the NFL: that son he was beating is just one of the unnumbered and perhaps unknowable mass of illegitimate kids the running back has conceived. Last year, he discovered the existence of one child just in time to witness his death. Is wanton irresponsible procreation within the rage of private conduct the NFL sees as appropriate for its paid heroes?
- Ann Althouse notes that Peterson was punished by his team in part because the NFL is under fire for its initial leniency regarding Rice. Is this fair, she asks? Good question.
- The reactions of many fans regarding the punishment of Rice and Patterson shows, as I long suspected, that the NFL has an unhealthy percentage of supporters who have warped values, encourage the NFL to have warped values, and are reinforced in those values by the conduct of the sport and its players.
- Fans, and even some commentators and pundits, who should know better, are asking whether the NFL has a legitimate interest in the conduct of its players off the field. Of course it does: every organization is in part assessed by the public and society according to the character, perceived or real, of those who manage it, represent it, and are employed by it. Therefore, every organization must have standards that it insists members meet to protect the image and culture of the entity.
33 thoughts on “Ethics Observations On Viking Adrian Peterson’s Child Abuse Indictment And Controversy”
Two other notes, adding to the NFL’s little disciplinary train wreck:
1. Peterson was apparently indicted by a second grand jury after the first one refused to do so, the prosecutor apparently trying to capitalize on the outrage over the Ray Rice situation. Double jeopardy much?
2. When, exactly, should a team pull a player? What is worrisome is that teams will pull or cut a player before all of the facts come in. So… if an allegation proves to be false (not unheard of in child abuse, domestic abuse, or sexual assault cases), a player’s life could be ruined. See what’s happening on college campuses over sexual assault.
Does double jeopardy apply to indictments or just convictions/exhonerations?
Typically, jeopardy attaches to a case when a criminal jury with the power to convict is empaneled.
Double jeopardy only applies if someone’s been convicted, which Peterson never was. And in some situations, double jeopardy is actually legal. Talk to your lawyer if you’re really upset about a suspected child abuser not getting the justice he deserves.
Also, your question of when should a team pull a player is just a game of distraction. I agree guidelines should be set since there SOME GUIDELINES to be none whatsoever except NFL execs and team owners huddling in a locked room each time a player commits some horrendous act and trying to figure out if they can keep the incident out of the news or get away with pretending it didn’t happen. The LAST thing they want to do is suspend a player for even a single game. Just ask football “hero” Michael Vic!
But I say your question is just a distraction because you seem to be bemoaning a player being suspended for a single game just because he brutally beat a small child, which makes you just as disgusting as Peterson.
Okay, since Jack is not available, I will try to channel his gesticulating outrage:
“Double jeopardy only applies if someone’s been convicted, which Peterson never was.”
Man Behind the Curtain, your statement is so ignorant that you doubly jeopardize the public by possibly making them dumber just for reading what you wrote. If double jeopardy only applies if someone has been convicted, O.J. Simpson could easily have been tried three, four, five, nay, ten times, until he gets convicted. And, only then, would jeopardy attach?
(How was that, Jack?)
I don’t know why teams feel it’s up to them to punish their players for conduct unbecoming outside of the arena. It’s a criminal matter, like the Ray Rice punch out was a criminal matter. Why anyone accepts the teams as an authority in justice eludes me. Maybe it stems from the amount of violence on the field that IS acceptable for players, but would otherwise be punishable in a different context.
But if criminal charges to be laid, is it appropriate to take action at the team level? Is it appropriate to take action at the team level before or after the conviction? What if there isn’t any conviction? What if there aren’t charges? Is the test of guilt less for teams than the judiciary?
Would your boss be right in firing you if you are convicted of a crime? I would think so.
We are whole people, we aren’t schizophrenic multiple people for whom life occurs in completely distinct arenas. If my “outside of work” life is rife with behavior that my boss feels is detrimental to my role in my “in work” life, I don’t see why he isn’t in his rights to terminate…
I think by extension, the logic would then go that you would be wrong to STOP shopping at Johnny’s Restaurant if you found out that Johnny loved beating on his wife every chance he gets (if that is the only reason you chose to stop eating there)…
“Would your boss be right in firing you if you are convicted of a crime? I would think so.”
Abso-freakin-lutely. But that hasn’t happened, there isn’t a conviction. Perhaps my question should have been worded: “Can employers act as judge jury and executioner on something that happened outside of work, when real judges and juries haven’t chimed in yet?”
I think the video enough allows for an employer to decide if an employee’s behavior reflects poorly on the place of employment.
Would your boss be fair to dismiss you if you were accused of a particularly horrible crime considering your position? Could a restaurant reasonably fire Jeffrey Daumer as its chef before he was “proven guilty”?
Of course. Could you justifiably fire your gardener after he was charged with child molestation, and you have two children at home? Sure!
Ok, now flip that, do they have a duty to fire those people? Murderers would probably be in custody and child molesters in a home with children are no-brainers. And yes, this assault had video. But what if we don’t, and it isn’t so obvious? where’s the line? Do we expect employers to fire jaywalkers, public drunkenness, petty theft, someone in a bar fight, drug use, et al? And what if they’re cleared of charges?
“Various “experts” have attempted to justify what Peterson did by arguing that such punishment is common in the South, and part of African American culture.”
This excuse drives me up the wall.
It was invoked by an African American colleague of mine in the army to rationalize Michael Vick’s behavior.
Sorry guys, but if you want to use culture as a defense, then we get to say your culture stinks without being called racist. OR, you get to accept that certain conduct IS wrong and seek to rectify it.
I should also cynically observe that this is ultimately the fault of white people as Southern Black families only inherited vicious beatings as a means of punishment from their time as slaves. Not having white people in their lives would ultimately show that they’d be living in Utopian Harmony.
Utopian Harmony like in Africa? Or is that all due to white colonization?
that didn’t take long
But what about the Bible? “Judge not, lest ye be judged”. Was it not said that if we do not forgive others, then God in heaven will not forgive us? Should not judgment be left to rulers, who are ministers of God that are revengers that execute wrath upon those that doeth evil?
To be sure, the NFL has a duty to not conceal the crimes of its players from lawful authorities. But it seems to me that for the NFL to actually judge (as opposed to formally cooperate with those with authority to judge) would be against God’s commands.
Apples and Oranges. The NFL won’t be depriving him of life, liberty or property as a Constituted Authority may (after due process). So that makes the NFL’s “judging” considerably different than a Court’s. The NFL will be limited purely to what it can do contractually.
I’d argue that losing a multi million dollar contract could be thought of as losing property.
Nope. They aren’t taking what has already been earned and in the case of a fine, it would be limited to what was contractually agreed upon when the individual signed into an organization that had such stipulations.
When you hold a bond. It’s worthless. It isn’t worth a red cent until it’s held to maturity, and earns the interest on the terms. Taking the bond a day before it matures would still be removing something of value. People will still give you money for that bond, even if it has no cash value. The time value of money, accruals, and investment earnings make that piece of paper valuable even if it’s worthless at the time. It’s similar with sports contracts, those contracts aren’t just payment for performance, the athletes surrender a lot of agency so the team can use their likeness and sell merchandise, for instance.
It’s also a lot like an employment contract where one party offers their skills and time to an organization and the organization offers compensation to the individual. Part of that contract may include line items involving personal behavior and most certainly, written or not, there is a reasonably expectation that the first party won’t reduce the organizations ability to provide the goods or services they offer to the market. And when when such occurs, the organization can terminate.
But it could be more like a bond…
My point was that just because something doesn’t have immediate liquid value doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any value. But touché.
My only caveat is that athlete employment contracts usually have marketing clauses in them that your average employment contract wouldn’t, making their value for more than just performance, which is why even if the team told Rice he wasn’t playing, they probably owe him some amount of money, but that’s pure speculation.
I can agree that if the NFL suspends all compensation then he could insist they suspend their use of everything he provides, although I’m sure the NFL would claim some imagery is their permanent property.
And I intentionally capitalized on an opportunity for snark in my “employment contract” response. I took some devilish pleasure from it. Glad you took it in stride.
Now I know you know the context of the “judge not” line, which is hypocrisy. Judge not unless you are willing to be held to the same standards. And I am.
I was going to bring that up the last time he brought up the judge not line, and the Romans 13 line…. They read much different in context than they do alone, and biblical cherry picking to try to make an argument is a special kind of disgusting.
It’s on the Rationalizations list, you know…
I didn’t know what to think about this case at first. It was presented as “Peterson spanked his son and that is child abuse”. The commenters I saw talk about it all spoke as if all spanking should be punished with jail time. The random people they spoke to about it all talked about how there could never be any justification for spanking a child. At that point, I was wondering if Adrian Peterson was being convicted for actually disciplining his children and I should actually admire him for at least trying to be a responsible parent. I was wondering if someone saw some redness on the child’s behind and freaked out about ‘abuse’ and this poor guy is going to serve jail time for it.
Then I saw the pictures. This was not a spanking. This was a beating. The media reports I saw were intentionally vague about what actually happened. Treating this like a spanking is like confusing someone being baptized with someone being drowned. Yes, there are similarities, but how dumb do you have to be to not notice the difference? I can see the headline now for a woman murdered by a boyfriend “Woman dies after being held under water in bathtub, a standard practice at conservative Christian churches”.
Or maybe like “9 year old girl shoots instructor because GUNS!”
Unless things have changed, there are words in NFL contracts (and probably in most sports’ contracts) regarding not behaving in ways that bring the team/league into disrepute. Public appearance is vital to their business, both player and owner. When the player signs on they agree to these terms, whatever they are.
The “crime” as far as the NFL is concerned is breach of contract, and I would not be surprised to see that said contract provided for just what they are doing. A conviction for activity that is in fact criminal is just another way to breach that contract.
Other forms of employment have similar limitations as to “off duty” conduct.
If one were to actually put any credence into the “African-American-culture” argument they will look very silly if they apply that argument to the behavior of people in some urban settings. Are they ready to say that violence to those outside the family is “just culture” and should be ignored or forgiven? I have my doubts.