Adrian Peterson, the embattled Minnesota Vikings running back, appeared in court on Wednesday to face charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child on the same day all 32 NFL owners are set to meet for the first time since the fallout of the Ray Rice scandal.
Peterson, who is expected to plead not guilty, is currently inactive in the wake of allegations that he abused his 4-year-old son with a tree branch. He is currently banned from all Vikings activities until the legal case has concluded. Still, he is still receiving his full $11.75 million salary.
Peterson has never denied striking his child, but he has maintained that his intent was to simply punish, not physically injure his son. The accusations against Peterson came after the indefinite suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for domestic abuse, which kicked off weeks of bad press for the NFL.
NFL owners are expected to spend 3 to 3½ hours on Wednesday evaluating league policies on domestic violence and sexual assault, according to USA Today. The meeting is taking place while an independent investigation seeks to determine what the league knew about the Ray Rice domestic violence incident in February, and when did they know it.
"The main thing that I'd like to see is and we are doing it is implementing programs to help prevent these issues from occurring," Houston Texans owner Bob McNair told USA Today. "You know there's been all this focus on the punishment side. We need to eliminate the incidents."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell put forward a list of potential questions about league policy to be discussed Wednesday in a memo to all owners on Monday. Topics to be explored include: the level of independent investigation needed by the NFL or teams into allegations of misconduct, the possibility of establishing paid leave until a charge is resolved and whether a third party might be involved in making those decisions.
Meanwhile, Peterson is also contending with fresh allegations about his charity organization, All Day, Inc. An alleged 2011 incident involving Peterson in an Eden Prarie hotel room, which was reportedly charged to his charity's expense account, resulted in rape allegations and a lengthy investigation, according to a Oct. 7 report from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Although no charges were filed, the incident has resurfaced amid new scrutiny of Peterson's off-the-field persona.
The Star Tribune reported that a "38-page police report details a night of drinking, arguing and sex that involved the running back, two relatives — including Peterson’s brother, a minor — and four women, in various pairs." Peterson has maintained his innocence of any wrongdoing, and according to the Star Tribune he both passed a polygraph test and was cleared of drug use in the aftermath of the incident.
Still, the charity’s 2011 financial report has raised some serious questions All Day, Inc. reportedly raised $247,064 that year, and listed only three organizations that received funds from it.
A fourth outlay, titled “clothing for needy families,” listed “unknown” for the number of recipients, according to the Star Tribune. And Donna Farley, president and founder of Straight From the Heart Ministries in Laurel, Md., which according to All Day received a $70,000 donation from Peterson's charity in 2009, claims to have never received money from the Pro Bowl running back.
“There have been no outside [contributions] other than people in my own circle,” Farley told the newspaper. “Adrian Peterson — definitely not.” ESPN later reported that Peterson's All Day Foundation charity had been taken offline.
Peterson responded himself to the controversy Tuesday on social media:
Later on Tuesday, Peterson said via Twitter that he does not own a credit card linked to his foundation. According to Peterson, All Day, Inc. and the All Day Foundation are two separate entities. He also said the Straight From the Heart Ministries is based in California, not Maryland, and did indeed receive donations.
"I guess never let the truth get in the way of a good story," Peterson tweeted.
"There is no question that prior to 2011, issues existed with the administration of Adrian's foundation. When this was brought to his attention, Adrian made changes to the organization and brought in new leadership," Peterson’s attorney Rusty Hardin said in a statement. He said the charity has since donated more than $1.4 million to various causes, including many that benefit children. "Adrian and his family are understandably proud of the foundation and the good work that it has done and continues to do," Hardin added.
Prior to the child abuse controversy, Peterson had been one of the most popular, productive and celebrated players in history of the league. However, if he does enter a not guilty plea it will likely keep him sidelined for at least the rest of the ongoing NFL season. His trial has tentatively been set for December.
"This man loves his children dearly, he is a very good guy, he is the same guy he was before these things started to happen publicly. I urge all of you just to wait. Don't rush to judge," Hardin told the press following Wednesday's hearing.