Adrian Peterson Should Stay Gone

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.

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