By Eben Novy-Williams (c) 2014, Bloomberg News.
Adrian Peterson was suspended for at least the rest of the National Football League season, extending his NFL punishment for child-abuse charges that have kept the 2012 Most Valuable Player off the field for the past nine weeks.
Peterson, who is making $11.75 million this season, has been on the commissioner’s exempt list since Sept. 17 while resolving criminal charges that he beat his son with a stick. He pleaded no contest Nov. 4 to reckless assault, a misdemeanor.
The Minnesota Vikings running back had a grievance hearing via telephone Monday and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Tuesday suspended Peterson without pay for the rest of the season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. The soonest he can apply for reinstatement is April 15.
In a letter to Peterson, Goodell said, “the timing of your potential reinstatement will be based on the results of the counseling and treatment program set forth in this decision.”
“Under this two-step approach, the precise length of the suspension will depend on your actions,” Goodell said. “We are prepared to put in place a program that can help you to succeed, but no program can succeed without your genuine and continuing engagement.”
Peterson, 29, is allowed to appeal the decision via written notice to Goodell within three days. The NFL Players Association said Tuesday that it will appeal to a neutral arbitrator.
“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,” the union said in a statement. “Since Adrian’s legal matter was adjudicated, the NFL has ignored their obligations and attempted to impose a new and arbitrary disciplinary proceeding.”
Tuesday’s decision comes two weeks after Peterson reached a deal to avoid trial on the child-abuse charges. He was fined $4,000 and ordered to perform 80 hours of community service by a Texas state judge in Conroe, north of Houston.
On Nov. 11, one week after Peterson’s settlement, the NFLPA filed an “expedited, non-injury grievance” to have him reinstated. Peterson that same week issued a statement saying the league was trying to “impose a new process of discipline on me” by trying to hold a hearing with outside experts, which the NFLPA says isn’t part of the collective bargaining agreement.
“At this point, I’ve resolved my matter in the criminal court; I’ve worked to make amends for what I’ve done; I’ve missed most of the season, and I stand ready to be candid and forthcoming with Mr. Goodell about what happened,” Peterson said. “However, I will not allow the NFL to impose a new process of discipline on me, ignore the CBA, ignore the deal they agreed to with me, and behave without fairness or accountability.”
Goodell in August modified the NFL’s personal conduct policy, establishing a baseline six-game suspension for offenses like assault, battery and domestic violence. In his letter to Peterson he said the fact that the running back’s use of a weapon, the size difference between he and his 4-year-old son and his lack of remorse all factored into a his larger discipline.
“It is imperative that you avoid any incident of this kind in the future,” Goodell said in his letter. “Any further violation of the personal conduct policy will result in additional discipline and may subject you to banishment from the NFL.”
There is a clause in the personal conduct policy that allows the NFL to seek discipline if the actions of a player pose substantial risk to the integrity of the league. In previous suspensions given to Ben Roethlisberger, Brandon Marshall and Adam “Pacman” Jones, the NFL used findings during a legal proceeding as personal conduct violations, regardless of the outcome.
Peterson was paid his salary while missing the Vikings’ last nine games.
The Vikings said in a statement earlier this month that the team respects the NFL’s process. Coach Mike Zimmer told reporters earlier this month that Peterson had always been “top-notch, first class.”
Peterson was unable to participate in team activities during his time on the exempt list, and hasn’t been taking up a roster spot. His teammates also offered their support last week.
“He’s one of the best players in the world, and he’s obviously somebody who’s meant a lot to this community, meant a lot for the team,” fullback Jerome Felton said, according to ESPN. “He’s one of our leaders. He was up here in the offseason. People follow his lead because of how hard he works. So it’d be pretty nice to add that back into the team.”
The team is 3-6 in Peterson’s absence, with Matt Asiata and rookie Jerick McKinnon sharing the workload at running back.
Peterson became the seventh player in NFL history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a single season in 2012. The two- time rushing champion has run for at least 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns in all but one of his first seven NFL seasons. Among active players he is third in yards rushing (10,190), and first in rushing scores (86).
Peterson was indicted on one count of injury to a child for disciplining his 4-year-old son with a switch, a whip fashioned from a thin tree branch. He has apologized for the incident, which occurred when the child was visiting his Houston-area home in May, saying his intent was not to injure his son.
Peterson was deactivated by the Vikings for their Sept. 14 game against the Patriots, then reinstated to take the field for Week 3. Owners Mark and Zygi Wilf said on Sept. 15 that it was a matter for the legal system to resolve.
The team quickly changed course amid criticism from fans, sponsors and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. Anger over abuse evidence against Peterson, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and Carolina Panthers defensive lineman Greg Hardy dominated headlines for North America’s richest sports league.
Rice, who was cut from the team and suspended indefinitely on Sept. 8, is appealed his suspension two weeks ago in front of an independent arbitrator who is yet to rule. Hardy is on the commissioner’s exempt list.
The Radisson hotel chain suspended a sponsorship deal with the Vikings, while Nike Inc., the world’s largest sporting goods maker, initially suspended then ended its sponsorship agreement with Peterson.
On Sept. 17, four days before the team’s game against the New Orleans Saints, Peterson was placed on the exempt list. Zygi Wilf said at the time that it was a mistake to have allowed Peterson to prepare for the game.