The Minnesota Vikings confirmed Monday that their embattled superstar running back Adrian Peterson will take the field next Sunday amid allegations that he physically abused his 4-year-old son.
The Vikings initially deactivated Peterson when reports that he had beaten his child with a tree branch surfaced at the end of last week. “On Friday, we felt it was in the best interests of the organization to step back, evaluate the situation, and not rush to judgment given the seriousness of this matter. At that time, we made the decision that we felt was best for the Vikings and all parties involved,” said Vikings owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf in a statement.
“To be clear, we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child. At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action,” they added.
Peterson, who is widely seen as one of the greatest players at his position in NFL history, has never denied beating his child. He surrendered to authorities this past weekend after being indicted for reckless or negligent injury to a child.
“I want everyone to understand how sorry I feel about the hurt I have brought to my child,” Peterson said in a statement poster on Twitter Monday, “I never wanted to be a distraction to the Vikings organization, the Minnesota community or to my teammates. I never imagined being in a position where the world is judging my parenting skills or calling me a child abuser because of the discipline I administered to my son.”
“I am not a perfect son. I am not a perfect husband. I am not a perfect parent, but I am, without a doubt, not a child abuser,” he added.
Radisson Hotels announced Monday night that they were dropping their sponsorship of the Vikings star. “Radisson takes this matter very seriously particularly in light of our long-standing commitment to the protection of children,” the company said in a statement. “We are closely following the situation and effective immediately, Radisson is suspending its limited sponsorship of the Minnesota Vikings while we evaluate the facts and circumstances.”
Rick Spielman, the GM of the Vikings, assured reporters Monday that the decision to reinstate Peterson has “nothing to do with him as a football player” and that it’s up to the courts to decide whether his star player went too far in punishing his son. “We’re trying to do the right thing,” he said.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is facing mounting pressure from both fans and legislators to resign for previously failing to suspend Rice when initial details of the domestic violence case were revealed. Still, the league’s 32 owners are the only ones with the authority to remove him. His tenure as commissioner has been incredibly profitable for the league and for himself. Goodell reportedly made over $100 million between 2008 and 2012, with over $44 million in 2012 alone.
Goodell has claimed that the NFL had not seen the more explicit footage of Rice striking Palmer until last week, but an Associated Press report has claimed that a league official received the tape shortly after the story went public in February.
The league has in place a policy that demands every employee avoid “conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the NFL.” Under these regulations, an executive committee has the authority, following a hearing, to suspend or remove the commissioner if his actions are harmful to the best interests of the league.
On Monday afternoon, in an effort to blunt some of the ongoing criticism of the league, Goodell announced that the NFL’s current vice president of Community Affairs and Philanthropy, Anna Issacson, would now take on an expanded role as vice president of social responsibility.
“Anna has been leading our internal work relating to how we address issues of domestic violence and related social issues. In this new role, she will oversee the development of the full range of education, training and support programs relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, and matters of respect with the goal of accelerating our implementation of the commitments made in my letter of August 28,” wrote Goodell in a memo to all NFL teams and staff. On August 28th, Goodell rolled out harsher penalties on NFL personnel who commit domestic violence or sexual assault. A first offense would result in a six-game suspension and a second incident could lead to a lifetime ban from the game.
Goodell also hired three women Lisa Friel, the former head of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit in the New York County District Attorney’s Office, Jane Randel, the co-founder of NO MORE, and Rita Smith, the former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, to serve as special adivsors to the NFL to “help lead and shape the NFL’s policies and programs relating to domestic violence and sexual assault.”
Goodell isn’t only one reeling from the fallout of domestic abuse scandals. CoverGirl has been lambasted for its role as the “official beauty partner” of the NFL. “It’s hard not to notice the unfortunate timing of a partnership between a makeup company and a sports league that has for years ignored its domestic violence problem. Makeup, after all, has been a long time go-to for survivors of domestic looking to cover up bruises and contusions,” wrote Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan.
CoverGirl responded to the mounting negative publicity with a statement Monday night condemning domestic violence as “completely unacceptable” and encouraging the NFL to “take swift action on their path forward to address the issue of domestic violence,” although they did not say that they would cut ties with the sports league.
Meanwhile, former NFL star Ray Rice is expected to appeal the indefinite suspension he received a week ago for knocking his future wife Janay Palmer unconscious in a New Jersey hotel elevator in February.
The former Baltimore Ravens running back could take legal action on Monday against the league, with the help of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), for being punished twice for the same offense, NBC News reported.
Greg Atallah of the NFLPA wouldn’t provide comment, but told NBC that the association must pursue a claim if the union thinks a player’s rights were violated.
“It doesn’t mean we agree with the bad act, it means we have to protect the rights of all our members,” he told NBC’s Brian Cohen.
Rice was charged with assault and suspended for two games earlier this year after the video first surfaced of Rice dragging Palmer from an elevator inside a casino. The NFL indefinitely suspended him without pay after a second video was released last week showing him punching Palmer.
The Rice incident has shed light on the NFL’s history of dealing with domestic violence issues. Earlier this month, the NFL attempted to tackle violence by sending a letter to all team owners outlining a new policy for players who are charged with domestic abuse. The league was prompted to change its rules following the arrest of a San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman, Ray McDonald, for an alleged domestic disturbance.
But cases haven’t stopped with Rice and McDonald. Prior to their team’s game on Sunday, management of the Carolina Panthers placed defensive end Greg Hardy on the inactive list. The athlete was convicted in July of assaulting and threatening his ex-girlfriend.
This weekend, Rice made his first public appearance since the controversy erupted. He attended a high school football game in his hometown of New Rochelle, New York, along with his wife and daughter. Reports say the Rice received a warm welcome from football fans.
“Ray is a part of our family, and a part of this program and that’s why I’m happy he’s here today,” New Rochelle Huguenots Coach Louis DeRienzo told The New York Daily News. “I know the character of the man and he will rise from this.”