As a survivor of child abuse, I’m just not sure where to start with this whole Adrian Peterson story. I’ve been thinking about it all weekend, and trying to figure out what to say about it, and I think finally I do have some thoughts.
First off, let me just get this out of the way. Yes, lots of us can look back and say “my parents did this”, or “my grandparents used a switch” what’s the big deal? As Cris Carter said on TV yesterday, it’s 2014, we know better now, and those people were wrong to do what they did. Going out and getting a switch and beating your kid with it to the point where you draw blood and leave some vicious marks on their legs is wrong. (I won’t link to the photos, but trust me, they’re not pretty.) Stop trying to defend it. If you were beaten with a switch, you were abused, whether you feel like it was abuse or not. Whether it’s been going on in your family for generation or not. This doesn’t represent the “weakening of America” this represents a step forward in preventing injury and later issues for children. I do think we can have a reasonable disagreement over light spanking in certain circumstances, but beating kids with a switch should not be a normal part of any child’s life!
The tougher question is what to do about Adrian Peterson. I think it’s fairly obvious that he is a victim of his own upbringing. When he needed to be disciplined, he got beaten with a switch. This is a textbook example of repeating the cycle of violence. Adrian now has a chance to learn better, and to stop the cycle, because he’s been reported for child abuse.
This past weekend, he was inactive for the Vikings. That makes sense to me. He was indicted on Friday and had to go to Houston to turn himself in and post bail. That all occurred, and he didn’t play.
Now it’s been announced that the Vikings are going to let him play while the legal process runs it’s course. For most of us, if we were charged with a crime, after posting bail, we’d probably go back to work and await the rest of the legal process to continue. But, being a professional athlete isn’t the same as a regular job. You’ve got the extra media attention, you get the public relations nightmare of having this guy go out and represent your team on Sunday and so on. That throws a lot of other things into the fire. (By the way, if you want to know why Ray Rice was released by the Ravens only after the video went public, think PR. They stood by him and his suspension when they judged that the issue would blow over and people would root for him again, then when the video was released, they re-thought that idea and released him.)
As far as I see it, the Vikings are perfectly within their rights to play Peterson while they await the legal process. They would also be within their rights to release him outright and never let him play again. That’s their choice, and it’s your choice to make up your own mind about whether what they are doing is right or not. You can choose to protest the Vikings decision to let him play next week, boycott the team and the NFL, or any other option available to you. If enough people think it’s wrong to play him, and that response hurts the Vikings bottom line, it might just get them to change their mind. That’s how free markets work. As a survivor, I’d like to think that anyone convicted of child or domestic abuse would not be allowed to play any more, but what to do until they are actually convicted? I don’t know.
What I hope, more than anything, is that this situation and all of the publicity will help us understand the damage done to children by outdated, barbaric practices. Perhaps enough people who still view getting a switch as normal will begin to question these beliefs and end the cycle within their own families. I think we can all agree on that!