So the NFL’s been in the news of late for the many off-field problems of some star (and not star) players. The two most prominent have been Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. I’m not really going to talk too much about Ray Rice, his guilt is plain to see in the video that’s been circulating over the internet. Suffice it to say the NFL had policy about the disciplinary action of players, and in expanding his suspension from the original 2 games to indefinitely they appear to have broken policy. However, as countless other athletes and celebrities sign contracts which include conduct clauses the NFL, in my opinion, has the right to modify the punishment based on those conditions. At the very least, it is well within the authority of the league to put pressure on the Baltimore Ravens to suspend or release Rice on those same grounds. Time will tell in what comes to all the legal challenges which are happening in this case. I think it’s pretty straight-forward; Ray Rice is 100% guilty of assault and battery on his then fiancée, and making such a strong statement on a public figure in the news coming from me is saying something as I don’t often do that.
The more intriguing case involves Adrian Peterson’s alleged child abuse. I’d never take a switch, belt, paddle or any other object to any of my children but I have spanked them on occasion and there are those who see no difference. By those who see no difference I mean there are those who see both as abuse or both as the parental right to discipline their children. Specifically when it comes to using a switch I’ve heard people from varying backgrounds, ages, geographical homes, political ideologies, etc say things akin to, “My mom and dad used a switch on me, what’s the big deal.” I’ve also heard from others with equally varied origins to say that it’s flat out abuse of a child what Peterson did. Some things are black and white, and some aren’t. How to discipline your child is one of those areas with many shades of grey.
Starting with the media coverage, anyone reading the articles about this case don’t know squat (including myself). Lacerations and bruises are always bandied about in the reports. But reading the words chosen by others can lead to multiple images which vary greatly from reader to reader. I remember reading articles and hearing news accounts of my best friend’s trial (he was accused of murder 14 years ago). Often I’d hear the phrase blood-soaked clothes or blood-stained clothes. Blood-soaked was totally off base, as you’ll see later, and even though blood-stained was, by definition, correct, it brings up images entirely different from the real truth; which I was able to witness for myself in the courtroom. You see, my friend’s blood-stained clothes included a tee-shirt with a drop of the victim’s blood about the size of a pencil eraser. The other article of clothing was a sweatshirt; the cuff of one sleeve had a smear of blood the size of a thumbnail. When you read blood-stained, did you imagine less blood than would fill a tablespoon over two separate articles of clothing? If you think blood-soaked is correct terminology, please leave now.
So, throwing away the details the media choose to report the facts are thus: Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse due to a report from the child’s mother when she took him to the doctor to have the injuries sustained documented and treated. (Okay, a poorly written summary of the facts of the police report, but in a nutshell that’s all I think anyone can honestly say they KNOW unless directly involved in the case.) I can’t make any judgment just yet on whether or not this is child abuse.
But there are some points to make. Most obviously when you spank a child or use a switch there is a line that can be crossed from discipline to abuse. Adrian Peterson is a world-class athlete; as an NFL running back he’s exceptionally strong. It wouldn’t take as much effort for him to cross the line compared to puny 40-year-old me. But most importantly, when disciplining children parents must agree to methodology. Here, the boy’s mother clearly did not – and that’s going to be one of the deciding factors in this case.
The NFL is cracking down on misconduct (of both personal and legal natures) from their players. It’s the right thing to do considering one of my favorite sports radio personalities, Greg Roberts, has referred to the NFL as the National Felon League. Hopefully those guilty of domestic abuse will be punished by the law, wrongs will be righted and character and class can return to all of professional football by ending the cycle of letting criminals continue to play. You can have great athletes without poor/illegal conduct (there are many of them out there) without sacrificing the quality of play – I believe it would actually be enhanced.
So, trouble makers beware; the NFL is desperate to clean up its image and you may no longer be welcome. Yes, Mr. Winston, I’m talking about you.