The child endangerment charges against Adrian Peterson caught us all very, very off guard. Perhaps none moreso than me, as I promptly wrote a piece arguing that what he was accused of wasn't child abuse... and was proven wrong approximately two minutes after posting my story when the age of the child was updated and the pictures were released.
We're not going to discuss here the severity of what he did, and certainly will not be debating the merits/ lack thereof of corporal punishment for children. This really isn't the forum at all for such a divisive debate. Here's the facts: Peterson is charged with a crime, many fans feel that what he did was wrong, and it is extremely likely that regardless of the court's decision Peterson will be facing some league punishment. And here's what we are going to discuss: for those who feel he did wrong, does he deserve a second chance?
Truth be told, I felt particularly stung after defending him here on DN and then basically having my words shoved right back down my throat. "Betrayal" is far too strong of a word for it, but I'm really not sure what word to use for the emotions I felt. I initially was 100% in the Ted Glover camp, aka the ‘Cut Him Now' camp. I could be persuaded to accept a trade because hey, why let the Vikings suffer too much for something that wasn't their fault? But I wanted him gone, and ASAP.
But the question "does he deserve a second chance?" kinda rings to me. There are things we all do that deserve second chances, and then there are things some do that don't. Aaron Hernandez, for example, does NOT deserve a second chance. Michael Vick, however, proved in many ways that second chances aren't always wasted. Look I despise what he did, but in all honesty he went above and beyond in terms of reparations. I don't know the man, but I'd honestly argue from everything I ever saw after he was released from jail that he was truly remorseful and repentant. You can never undo the past, but you can learn from your mistakes, see the error of your ways, and come out better for it.
Some would argue Adrian Peterson does NOT deserve a second chance. Child abuse is unforgiveable, and second chances are too good for those who do this. It seems easy to say, easy to back. But here's the thing. Regardless of any punishment that Peterson receives, be it from the league and/or the court, he's still going to be a father. A father of many children, by the way. And furthermore, it would seem currently that he still won't have any concept that what he did was wrong.
Think about that for a second. You can sentence him to jail, permanently kick him out of the NFL- but he will still later be free, a free man who is still a father, a father who still doesn't realize why he was punished. He'll understand why we think he was punished, but he won't agree that it was wrong or that he should have been punished. You can even remove his rights to this particular child as a parent; you can't, legally speaking, remove his rights to the other children unless their mothers agree to it. And I'm betting that won't happen.
What would it take for him to have a second chance? He needs to be punished, yes. Legally, by the league, or by both. (Personally I sincerely doubt he will see jail time, but that's just a prediction.) But far more importantly, he needs to understand what he did was wrong, and why it was wrong.
Peterson testified that growing up, he was switched with an extension cord by his father. His father also was arrested and spent time in jail, and that is just one example of what has always sounded like an extremely difficult childhood. In some ways, it's vaguely understandable that Peterson has failed to see what he did wrong. Do we cast him aside forever for this? Doom, perhaps, his other children to a father who may love them yet fail to understand the full ramifications of corporal punishment taken too far?
The Minnesota Vikings absolutely did the right thing in deactivating Peterson for the Patriots game, and I would contend that by holding him until the full details come out is also the right thing to do. (Snap judgments are easy to make, but can often err, at least some. It's a good policy and a good precedent to wait a bit before making drastic moves no matter what.) I would now argue that they have a chance to do another right thing, something that may be unpopular at first but would- hopefully- be ultimately vindicated.
Releasing Peterson would certainly be understandable, but then you've done nothing to help a man who doesn't realize what they did. The Vikings have the opportunity now to help him, and trust me, he clearly needs help. And remember before you lash out- this isn't so much for his sake as the sake of his children, who deserve the best in life, as all children do.
I would argue that at this point, the Vikings should suspend Adrian Peterson for the season (assuming the league office doesn't, which they may well do), and then get him that help. Classes, counseling, spiritual guidance (he is a very religious man and this may ring particularly strong for him), whatever it takes for him to see what he did was wrong, why it was wrong.
I believe Peterson when he says he loves his children, that he didn't intend for some of the more obscene injuries to happen, and that he did it as a stern yet loving father correcting his child. That does NOT absolve him, but to me, it is a ray of hope for him. If he truly holds his children's best interests at heart, then to me, he should not be beyond helping, beyond ‘saving' to teeter towards melodrama.
The Vikings cannot ensure that Peterson gets this help if they cut him. Perhaps he will go to another team, a team that isn't interested in helping him. (Does anyone want to see Jerry Jones trying to play role model to Peterson?!) And I wouldn't trust the league office AT ALL in helping him- not that they likely would offer anyways.
I'm not saying I want to see Peterson stay on the Vikings because I want him to continue to play for us. I'm saying I want to see Peterson stay on the Vikings so that the Vikings can help him, and by extension, help his children.
Will this happen? It's a bit of a pipe dream, probably. And unless the entire goal of keeping Peterson is to help him, then I don't want him around. Again, this isn't a football thing, this isn't a fan thing. This is a ‘help a man, a father, who needs it right now for the sake of his children' thing.
In that sense, maybe yes, he does deserve that second chance- the chance to become a better person, a better father.