Adrian Peterson Suspended for at Least the Remainder of the Season

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Football running back Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings arrives for a court hearing on charges of child abuse at the Montgomery County Courthouse on November 4, 2014 in Conroe, Texas. Peterson entered a no contest plea and will avoid jail time.
Adrian Peterson.Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images

The NFL announced today that Adrian Peterson has been suspended without pay for at least the remainder of this season, and that his reinstatement won’t be considered before April 15, 2015. Peterson, who had been indicted on the felony charge of injury to a child, pleaded no contest earlier this month to a lesser charge of misdemeanor reckless assault.

The NFL’s statement said that Peterson was suspended for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy, and that in a letter to Peterson, Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote that the “timing of your potential reinstatement will be based on the results of the counseling and treatment program set forth in this decision.”

The statement also cited the changes made to the league’s Personal Conduct Policy in August (in the wake of the Ray Rice incident) that identified circumstances that could lead to higher levels of discipline beyond the standard six-game ban for assault, battery, or domestic violence. Goodell cited several such circumstances in this case in a letter to Peterson:

First, the injury was inflicted on a child who was only four years old. The difference in size and strength between you and the child is significant, and your actions clearly caused physical injury to the child. While an adult may have a number of options when confronted with abuse–to flee, to fight back, or to seek help from law enforcement–none of those options is realistically available to a four-year old child. Further, the injury inflicted on your son includes the emotional and psychological trauma to a young child who suffers criminal physical abuse a t the hands of his father.

“Second, the repetitive use of a switch in this instance is the functional equivalent of a weapon, particularly in the hands of someone with the strength of an accomplished professional athlete.

“Third, you have shown no mean ingful remorse for your conduct. When indicted, you acknowledged what you did but said that you would not ‘eliminate whooping my kids’ and defended your conduct in numerous published text messages to the child’s mother. You also said that you felt ‘very confident with my actions because I know my intent.’ These comments raise the serious concern that you do not fully appreciate the seriousness of your conduct, or even worse, that you may feel free to engage in similar conduct in the future.”

Peterson had previously been on the commissioner’s exempt list, which meant he was kept off the field but continued to receive his salary. Only Goodell can reinstate him from that list, and Peterson’s plea deal forced the commissioner to decide whether to let him play again or hand down further punishment. Goodell — surely aware of the backlash he could face if the public believed he let Peterson off too easy — chose the latter.

But Goodell now appears headed for a battle with the players’ union, which said today that it would appeal the suspension because “the discipline imposed is inconsistent.” Here’s the NFLPA’s statment:

The decision by the NFL to suspend Adrian Peterson is another example of the credibility gap that exists between the agreements they make and the actions they take. Since Adrian’s legal matter was adjudicated, the NFL has ignored their obligations and attempted to impose a new and arbitrary disciplinary proceeding.

The facts are that Adrian has asked for a meeting with Roger Goodell, the discipline imposed is inconsistent and an NFL executive told Adrian that his time on the Commissioner’s list would be considered as time served.

The NFLPA will appeal this suspension and will demand that a neutral arbitrator oversee the appeal.

We call on the NFL Management Council to show our players and our sponsors leadership by committing to collective bargaining so a fair personal conduct policy can be implemented as quickly as possible.