The week leading up to Sunday September, 14th was possibly the worst one in the history of the NFL, and could even be considered the worst week for a national sports league in all of history. The nadir of the situation came when star NFL running back for the football team the Minnesota Vikings, Adrian Peterson, was indicted on charges saying that he physically abused his four year old son. Legally Peterson is being indicted of parental abuse, but should he really be convicted? The fact is that sometimes what seems like parental abuse is simply discipline. The Vikings organization and the NFL, do not have the right to punish Adrian Peterson because parents have the right to discipline their children as they see fit.
Peterson is being charged with parental abuse. This came about because he was caught beating his son with a switch, which is a flexible branch or rod used to whip or discipline. He was caught when a doctor examined the four year old and decided that the lacerations on his legs and back were, in fact, brought on by parental abuse. Now Peterson is being looked at very negatively by those in the NFL community. His fans, coaches, and teammates are all shocked and appalled and left reeling after learning what he did. The Vikings even deactivated him until the situation is legally resolved.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Services, “any nonaccidental physical injury or harm” is considered physical abuse under the United States official federal law. Based on this understanding it would be obvious that Adrian Peterson did in fact commit a crime. That being said, there are many exceptions to the rule that make Peterson’s case not as clear. The Department of Health and Services also reveals that, under the U.S. federal law, in 16 states (along with the American Samoa and the Mariana Islands) physical discipline. as long as it is within reason, is an exception to the law. The main issue here is what is considered within reason. What Adrian Peterson did may or may not be considered within reason depending on who is the one reflecting on his actions. It is because of this that it is impossible to determine if he broke the law until a judge officially decided if he was “within reason”.
Another very important exception comes with being in the state of Texas Peterson’s home state, and where the act occurred. In Texas, Physical injury is classified as, “injury that results in substantial harm to the child or the genuine threat of substantial harm from physical injury to the child...excluding an accident or reasonable discipline by a parent, guardian, or conservator that does not expose the child to a substantial risk of harm” (Fam. Code § 261.001). This means that, when a child is injured by their parent or guardian, and the cause is due to parental discipline, then it may not considered unlawful abuse, as long as it is determined to be within reason. Adrian Peterson is from Texas. It was there that he was caught disciplining his son. In accordance with the law he may not be so guilty after all.
Unfortunately, other events in the NFL have had major contributions to the extreme criticism of Peterson. Another player from the NFL, Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens, was caught on camera, punching his then fiancee and knocking her out in an elevator in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The NFL originally gave Ray Rice only a two game suspension, a mere slap on the wrist. Fans everywhere were absolutely outraged. Then, after the video was released that explicitly showed Rice in the act, the NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, took the opportunity to correct their mistakes and suspend Rice indefinitely. Goodell claimed that he had not previously seen the video, however there is a lot of evidence that makes it seem like the NFL did in fact have prior knowledge of the recording. Fans felt as though they could not trust the NFL, and that the commissioner deserved to be fired. It was because of the events with Rice that the punishment for Peterson was so harsh. The only reason that the court of public opinion is reacting so strongly to the Adrian Peterson situation is because the NFL handed the Rice situation so poorly and wanted to handle this correctly from the get-go. Former star basketball player and current sports analyst Charles Barkley came to Peterson’s defense in an interview with Jim Rome, saying, “Listen, we spank kids in the south...Every black parent in my neighborhood in the South would be in trouble or in jail under those circumstances”. Peterson is not alone in his actions. This is how many people from the south are raised: their given households often believe that this is the correct way of discipline. All parents including Peterson simply want their children to be the best that they can be. Peterson is not a child abuser, his charity the All Day Foundation even goes to help at risk children.
Adrian Peterson’s actions, while wrong in the eyes of the NFL, do not call for serious punishment. Peterson does not deserve to be punished for something everyone does just because the NFL is going through a hard time. Parent’s have the right to discipline their children “within reason”. Although parents everywhere might not think that the decision regarding Adrian Peterson's case matters much, its influence goes beyond the NFL and its players. It also greatly influences the laws pertaining to child abuse and what is acceptable parental discipline.After all discipline is something parents do simply to make their children the best they can be. Parent’s that only want the best for their child do not deserve to be punished as long as they remain in accordance with the law. The law does not explicitly say that discipline is against the law, it is somewhat vague. It is the parents in the world that ignore their children and show no love towards their children that deserve to be punished.
Chase, Chris. "Charles Barkley Defends Adrian Peterson's Use of Corporal Punishment." For The Win. N.p., 14 Sept. 2014. Web. 07 Oct. 2014. <http://ftw.usatoday.com/2014/09/charles-barkley-adrian-peterson-video-ray-rice-cbs-nfl-today>.
"Child Abuse Law." - HG.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2014. <http://www.hg.org/child-abuse.html>.
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