I have never followed mainstream sports like football. I knew about the pro-civil rights Senator Charles E. Goodell long before I knew about his son, Roger. I barely know a thing about football; I’m pretty sure the game involves touchdowns. But in the last few months, something surprising has happened: I have actually started following NFL-related news. First, it was the Ray Rice case, and in order to assess whether the NFL should be raked across the coals for the way the case was handled initially, we have to determine, paraphrasing the late Senator Howard Baker, what did the commissioner know, and when did he know it? I wanted to talk today, however, about Adrian Peterson. The NFL finally seems to be taking a moderately hard line, suspending him for the rest of the season. Adrian Peterson should, however, be banned for life from playing in the NFL and serve prison time for child abuse. To be clear, I am unalterably opposed to any corporal punishment, but I do not consider mild corporal punishment to be abuse and would not advocate banning parents from using it. Teachers have absolutely no right to strike their students except in self defense, and doing so should be banned by federal law. On the other hand, a bill banning all forms of corporal punishment by parents would be un-passable, unenforceable, and all around impractical. All of that said, what Peterson did to his four year old son was not mild corporal punishment. Peterson beat his son up, apparently because his son pushed a sibling off of a motorbike game. Where on Earth did this kid ever get the idea it was acceptable to hit family members? As the photographic evidence demonstrates, Peterson’s “discipline” left welts and possibly physical scars on his son’s skin. Whatever anyone thinks of corporal punishment in general, we should all be able to agree that Peterson’s conduct was clear cut child abuse. It should also be noted that Peterson tried to play the whole thing off as no big deal until it looked like his football career might be in serious jeopardy. He described himself as “very confident with my actions because I know my intent,” showed up for court stoned, and skipped a disciplinary hearing. Now, he claims that he will never use a switch on his son again, which, regardless of whether or not you support switching, is a good thing, since he clearly has difficulty administering a switching without crossing the line into abuse. He also says he is going through counseling to be a better parent. But haven’t we seen this movie a thousand times? A celebrity does something offensive and/or immoral, makes a cursory apology, then finally starts falling over themselves to make amends once they realize how much trouble they are in? Why was the realization that he had given his son welts not enough to make Peterson realize that he had done a terrible thing? Why did it take being benched for the season to really get his attention? We can sympathize with the conditions earlier in Peterson’s life that influenced him to make the choices he has made. For instance, statements by the Vikings player indicate that his own parents may have disciplined him in a similarly abusive manner. That does not excuse his behavior, however. It is time for this country to draw a clear line in the sand against parents beating up their children.
Monthly Archives: November 2014
Like some of my readers, I was not happy with the Republican landslide on Tuesday. While my economic views are more in line with the GOP than the Democrats, I vote based on civil rights issues, where I align much more with the (current) Democratic Party. However, I would like to discuss why I believe major events on Tuesday actually point to progress on gay rights. Certainly, it would have been better for the Gay Rights Movement if the Democrats had kept control of both houses of Congress and won more gubernatorial elections, but let’s consider several things that happened on November 4. First of all, at the beginning of the week, there were three remaining Senate Democrats who oppose same-sex marriage: Joe Manchin, Mark Pryor, and Mary Landrieu. Manchin was not up for re-election, but Pryor and Landrieu were. Pryor was crushed like a walnut by Republican Tom Cotton, losing by approximately seventeen percentage points. Landrieu is being forced into a runoff, and Politico has reported that the Democratic Party is basically abandoning her. So in essence, we are down to a maximum of two homophobic Democrats in the Senate and quite possibly only one. Furthermore, two of the most rabidly homophobic Democrats in the House, John Barrow, who voted for a Federal Marriage Amendment, and Nick Rahall, who cosponsored one LAST YEAR, were swept out. Maybe Blue Dog Democrats in the South will take a lesson from this that spouting off homophobic pieties does not enable you to beat Republicans. Second, the state of Massachusetts elected Charlie Baker as their new governor. Baker is a staunch supporter of same-sex marriage and has been public about his views since 2010, when he first ran for governor. I distinctly recall my embarrassment as a Georgian during the 2010 Elections that the GOP gubernatorial candidate in Massachusetts would publicly support gay marriage, while the Democratic candidate in Georgia, Roy Barnes, would not. Social conservatives have long claimed that fiscally conservative, pro-gay marriage Republicans are unelectable, and Baker proved them wrong on Tuesday. The Senate race in New Hampshire provides a great contrast. That election pitted pro-gay marriage Democrat against Republican Scott Brown, who has consistently stopped short of supporting gay marriage. In contrast to the “deep blue” Massachusetts, New Hampshire is a battleground state, having gone for Bush in 2000. Conventional wisdom would say that Brown would have had an easier time there than Baker would have had in Massachusetts. In fact, however, Brown lost. So it appears from events on Tuesday that gay-friendly Republicans do better in the Northeast than homophobic ones. Third, it was on Tuesday that a judge ruled in favor of marriage equality in Kansas. All of these factors demonstrate that the Republican victories on Tuesday do not reflect a backlash against gay rights. To be sure, bigotry is bread and butter for the majority of Republican politicians, and with control of the House and Senate, Republicans will fight to stop equal rights from being achieved nationwide. But they are not going to win that battle, and if they are foolish enough to think that their recent wins are a voter mandate to denigrate gay people, then their foolishness may cost them in 2016.