Green: Let Peterson process play out
Mary Green | Sunday, September 14, 2014
You had to know this column was coming.
It was almost inevitable after such a tumultuous week in the NFL.
Ray Rice was cut by the Ravens and indefinitely suspended by the league after the video of him hitting his then-fiancée, now-wife, surfaced.
Adrian Peterson was charged with causing reckless or negligent injury to a child by allegedly using a branch to hit his four-year-old son, and he was subsequently deactivated by the Vikings for Sunday’s game against the Patriots.
The Panthers made a last-minute decision to deactivate Greg Hardy for their matchup Sunday against the Lions after head coach Ron Rivera faced criticism for stating Hardy would be active earlier in the week. The defensive end was found guilty of threatening and assaulting his ex-girlfriend in July.
The responses to the Rice and Hardy cases seem to be clear. Abusing or assaulting a spouse or significant other is a black-and-white matter: There’s no way to justify it because it is simply wrong. Commissioner Roger Goodell dropped the ball with his initial decision to only suspend Rice for two games, and he missed a key opportunity for the NFL to declare a strong stance against domestic violence and set a precedent for future cases.
But after the video evidence emerged last week, there were no more questions that needed to be asked since the facts were right in front of Goodell, in visual form, and he acted correctly in suspending Rice indefinitely. Though the legal system seems to be dragging its feet with Rice’s case, the NFL’s brass had a responsibility to take action within the league once they saw the facts before them.
The Hardy case brings up the question of why the Panthers didn’t act sooner since he was found guilty two months ago. It seems they only took punitive measures against Hardy in light of the controversy surrounding Rice and Peterson — he wasn’t suspended for their week-one game against Tampa Bay. However, since the Pro Bowler has been found guilty in a court of law, he deserves to receive an equal punishment from his own organization and the NFL.
Peterson’s situation is the one that is most “gray,” so to speak. There’s not one clear answer anywhere, and there are many different opinions floating around.
I’m not saying the Viking made the wrong decision in deactivating Peterson. In all honesty, I have no idea what I would do in that situation.
But at the same time, Peterson has been charged with the crime but not yet found guilty.
Yes, just being charged with an offense as egregious as beating your own child goes against many legal and ethical lines. It’s certainly not anything to be proud of.
Allegedly, his son suffered bruises and cuts in several places on his lower body. If those allegations are true, Peterson should face a lengthly suspension from the NFL, at the least.
However, the legal system has not found Peterson guilty, so he is still presumed innocent. That’s something understood in the fifth and sixth amendments of the U.S. Constitution along with common law in many countries around the world.
In the end, the Viking probably made the right call to sit Peterson out. But that’s a decision that comes with much reflection and contemplation about Peterson, his situation, the facts and the crime. It’s not something that should be done immediately based on a quick reaction.
There were far too many people calling for Peterson’s head as soon as the story broke, saying he should be suspended for the rest of the season or even kicked out of the NFL for life.
Those kinds of gut reactions are what started and fueled the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.
That was what Rivera said was his rationale when he initially decided to keep Hardy active for yesterday’s game. On Friday, he said, “We are in a process, and we’re letting the process play its way out. Because of that, we’re following through with the situation, set of circumstances. We’re not trying to do anything below board or way above board.”
Teams don’t want to let a criminal — whether that be a wife-beater or a child-abuser — roam their sidelines on Sundays. But they don’t want to be too quick to jump the gun either and convict an innocent man in a kangaroo court.
There’s no easy answer for cases like Peterson’s. Much deliberation is put into selecting commissioners like Goodell, because they will need to make difficult decisions. We just need to have faith in those leaders to make that right decision and use their judgment and reason before sending down a ruling too harsh or too lenient.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.