Why the Adrian Peterson Dilemma for the NFL Is So Markedly Different than the Ray Rice Situation
Update: Oh nevermind: Dude is a straight-up violent asshole. — DR
Friday night, after news broke that Minnesota Vikings running back — and arguably, the best running back in the NFL — had been indicted for reckless and/or negligent endangerment of a child, I quickly turned to sports talk radio to gauge the response. Mostly, it was revulsion and horror; talk radio hosts were shocked that a man Peterson’s size would take a branch from a tree and whip his four-year-old son with it.
My initial response — and I’m sure that many of you have already heard this line from someone in your life — was that, “If you’re going to hand down indictments for using a switch, my Granny should be serving a life term.” It was a joke, but not really. I had a lot of switches (and belts) used on me from the ages of four to eight, and though I wasn’t privy to the reactions of the talk radio hosts in Texas or Arkansas who probably experienced the same, I’m sure they were quite different from the ones I was hearing in New England.
Indeed, I had a lot of f**ked up shit happen to me in my youth, but getting my ass spanked with switches and belts didn’t leave any lasting trauma, and while I harbor a lot of resentment toward my parents for a variety of things that they let happen to my siblings and I, I’ve never held a grudge for the switches and the belts (or even the boards).
What Ray Rice did was malicious and evil. What AP did feels like ignorance, like something bad that came from a well-intentioned place, and I feel like if I’m going to call Adrian Peterson a monster, I necessarily have to lump the people that raised me — and a whole host of other people that I grew up with — into that same category. Are they monsters, too? (Yes? No? Maybe? I don’t know.)
Adrian Peterson thought what he was doing was for the betterment of his child. He’s an idiot, and he’s wrong, and I can’t stress that enough to anyone simply skimming this piece, but I don’t think he’s a terrible person. I think he doesn’t know any better. I think that no one ever told him any different. I think that he’s repeating the actions and mistakes of his parents and his grandparents, but I don’t think that Adrian Peterson is a monster.
The decision about what the NFL do is a complicated one, and I do not envy Roger Goodell’s decision, because while the Ray Rice situation felt fairly cut and dry to me (ban him for f**king life), this one feels more like a clash of cultures. The people where I live won’t be satisfied unless he’s punished severely. Some of the people where I grew up don’t understand what all the fuss is about. Our parents used switches on us, and we survived, didn’t we? Why don’t we just angrily point our fingers at AP and tell the fella to lay off the spankings?
What should not be lost in all of this conversation, however, is this: A four year old got the sh*t whipped out of him, and as someone who knew what a switch felt like when he was four or five years old, it f**king stings. For days. When you are that young, it’s impossible to stand still, and when you’re dancing around, that switch will hit you everywhere, including defensive wounds on your hands, the back of your legs, and your lower back.
On the other hand, my parents quit with the corporeal punishment after they were divorced. It’s hard to curry favor with your kids when you’re spanking them. Still, while it’s probably (definitely) a misguided, moronic thing to think, statistically speaking, society has had a better outcome with me than with my younger siblings. I often used to think it was because I was disciplined more harshly and for a longer period of time than my younger siblings. There’s probably nothing to that, but I’m sure that some form of discipline plays a role in outcomes. And while I would never, ever hurt my own children, I never once thought that the whoopings I received from my parents and my grandparents came from a place of hate.
I don’t think Adrian Peterson is a hateful person, either. The question is, how harsh should we punish a man for being raised poorly and for inflicting his past — which got him to the NFL — onto his own son? AP may not be a terrible person, but what he did absolutely WAS terrible. However, I’m sure that, somewhere in the back of AP’s mind, he also attributes the beatings he got as a child to his own success in life. I think that Adrian Peterson committed a monstrous act, but I do not think that Adrian Peterson is necessarily a monster.
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