The NFL and the NFLPA Are Completely Lost

This week Adrian Peterson got suspended for the rest of the season without pay for his child abuse case in Texas. Peterson pleaded no contest to reduced charges over the discipline of his 4-year-old son, who suffered cuts, marks and bruising to his thighs, his back and on his genitalia.

Immediate reaction from DeMaurice Smith, president of the NFLPA and Adrian Peterson’s lawyer was outraged that the NFL had overstepped their boundaries. According to Peterson’s lawyer, the NFL was now trying to determine how NFL players should parent. Smith was more concerned about due process for Peterson and the NFL was now making up the behavior policy as it goes along.

In reaction to this, NFL representatives quickly issued press releases and did radio interviews defending their position under the collectively bargain Player Conduct Policy. The NFL point to Adrian Peterson not completing ANY counseling during his time off, his continued insistence that he’s done nothing wrong in his texts and other public forms of communication, and his refusal to meet with the NFL last week to talk about this very suspension.

I am by no means a Roger Goodell fan and have said in the past how I think it would be wise for all parties involved if the disciplinary process was changed to completely remove him from the process. Yes, this suspension smells of “we are not going to make the same mistake we made with Ray Rice” damage control. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t the right thing to do.

Seemingly getting lost in the media spin being put out by both sides is this indicting quote from Roger Goodell to Adrian Peterson:

You have shown no meaningful 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.

Combine this with Peterson’s rejection of counseling and a sit-down meeting with Roger Goodell, the NFL was painted into a corner with no other option other than the suspension. For the NFL, it’s simple. If this happens again with Peterson, the public won’t decry the court system or Peterson. The public will come after the NFL.

The outcry against Ray Rice was not directed at the court system, the district attorney, or even Ray Rice himself. It was squarely at the NFL. Fair or not, right or not, the NFL now finds itself as more than just entertainment but also as the moral police for its players. It’s a role that it may not have wanted but it has been put there by the fans, the media, and to some extent by the players themselves who continue to break the law and have the money to buy their way out of it through the work of their high-powered attorneys.

The NFL fails to understand how poisoned Roger Goodell is. He is not ever getting the benefit of the doubt from the players or the public. Even when he gets it right (as he did in this instance), it gets lost in the media scrum afterward.

What the NFLPA fails to understand is that the world is different now. Just because a player can afford an attorney to work the justice system, that doesn’t buy them a free pass with the public particularly in cases involving domestic abuse. The opportunity to play in the NFL is not a right, it’s at the pleasure of the fans. They foot the bill and the public has been clear – ‘no more.’

The NFLPA claims all of this is just a public relations ploy by the NFL due to the Ray Rice case. Does that even matter? The NFLPA and Peterson’s lawyers can cry due process and public relations fiasco all they want. They can point to a plea bargain in Texas and scream that’s enough punishment.

All the press conferences and soundbites will never change the images of that 4 year-old boy’s bruises and lashes. Anyone who has seen the pictures knows better. That was abuse. The courts got it wrong. This isn’t an invasion of privacy. This is delivering on a promise – ‘no more.’

Critique the process all you want but the NFL got this one right.

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