Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Modify your morality, Peterson belongs in NFL

Montgomery County, Texas District Attorney Brett Ligon coined the phrase "modify behavior" in an effort to describe his approach in the Adrian Peterson child-abuse case.

Now that the legal process has run its course, it's time for the NFL and, perhaps more importantly, the armchair moralists to put the torches and pitchforks into storage and allow Peterson to continue his professional football career.

The only other option is to assemble some type of Gestapo and start the due diligence on the other 500-plus players scheduled to suit up on Sunday. Otherwise any perceived righteousness over Peterson's behavior is both limited and convenient, rendering it virtually meaningless.

Ligon claimed deterring Peterson from using corporal punishment on his children in the future was his ultimate goal -- that and the publicity -- after dismissing a felony charge that technically could have sent the exiled
Vikings running back to jail for a year.

The reality, of course, is that a first-time offender brought up on these chargers was never going to do any jail time, never mind a defendant as financially well-heeled as Peterson. So Ligon negotiated an agreement which
allowed Peterson to plead no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault and avoid jail time in exchange for two years of probation, 80 hours of community service and a $4,000 fine.

"Our No. 1 concern has always been to modify Mr. Peterson's behavior so his children are safe going forward," Montgomery County First Assistant DA Phil Grant, Ligon's spokesman, said. "For us, it was about protecting those kids. In the future, he's got other avenues to go besides that level of corporal punishment. This plea resolved that No. 1 issue."

Grant also said the boy's mother supported the agreement.

"She was on board with the decision," he said. "She wants Mr. Peterson to be involved in their son's life and make sure that it doesn't happen again."

Peterson, who was indicted Sept. 11 after being accused of using a wooden tree branch to hit his 4-year-old as a disciplinary measure, was also contrite.

"I truly regret this incident," said Peterson outside the courthouse after the agreement was reached. "I take full responsibility for my actions. I love my son more than anyone of you can imagine. I am anxious to continue my relationship with my child. I am glad this over... so me and my family can move forward."

Moving forward sounds sensible enough because the legal case is now resolved and due process has been served.

Peterson, however, remains on the  commissioner's exempt list as the league and the Vikings try to figure out their next move.

The Vikings said in a statement Tuesday evening that they were aware of the plea agreement and would have a further comment "at the appropriate time."

Earlier in the day when news of the plea agreement broke NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told Pro Football Talk: "We will review the court documents. We cannot speculate on a timetable for a decision,"  a clear indication that the NFL has learned nothing from its rudderless direction of the past.

Of course commissioner Roger Goodell fostered this atmosphere by picking and choosing where to get involved in regards to off-the-field incidents. His lack of consistency and transparency over the years created the current problem yet the league continues to double down on that flawed philosophy.

In fact it's almost mind-boggling that the NFL hadn't hammered down its position on the Peterson issue in advance of this well-publicized agreement. The league certainly knew it was coming.

The minute Peterson accepted the plea he should have been reinstated. After all, the former All-Pro has not only paid for his own sins, he's been paying for the sins of others, namely Ray Rice and Greg Hardy.

"I hope and trust (Peterson) doesn't fall prey to all these publicized events involving other people, which had nothing to do with his situation," Peterson's lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said on ESPN Radio Wednesday morning. "This is a parent disciplining a child and an unintended harm occurred. But it has nothing to do with child abuse, domestic abuse, family abuse and so on, so I hope he doesn't continue to get lumped in with problems others have."

Remember Peterson was initially deactivated prior to a Week 2 game against New England after being indicted and was then reinstated by the team the following Monday. Only backlash from sponsors, fans and the Minnesota government, which was at least partially fueled by a series of other high-profile incidents,
caused the Vikings to reverse course and place Peterson on the commissioner's exempt list.

On a national level, sponsors are never going to flee the NFL because it's the one television vehicle that has proven immune to an increasingly over-the-top digital distribution culture where streaming services like Netflix and Hulu continue to erode traditional viewership levels.

And others, who haven't embraced the convenience of over-the-top platforms rely more and more on their DVRs, at times making commercials useless.

The NFL, along with a few other sacred cows like the NCAA basketball tourney and the NBA playoffs, have proven to be DVR-proof so while some big-time advertisers like Anheuser-Busch may bluster, that's all it is.

Radisson did flee a local sponsorship deal with the Vikings due to the A.P. scandal and if others threaten to follow suit when he ultimately returns, Minnesota has every right to release Peterson.

Keeping him in limbo, though, is not fair and should not be an option.

When you take emotion out of any situation and replace it with logic, most will realize that "due process" is one of the major reasons why this country is regarded by so many as the greatest in the world.

Peterson has already been judged in a legal sense and there should be no double jeopardy in the court of public opinion.

Let Saint Peter legislate morality.
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