Let none of us show pity for Peterson, even though his loss of millions might draw pity from some people. Yet we can’t will ourselves to feel an ounce of empathy for him. We reserve the pity we do have for his 4-year-old son, whose body bears the scars of a father’s abusive conduct.
It doesn’t matter whether a person agrees that whipping a child is an appropriate way to punish him. We know Americans are split on corporal punishment of any sort, and for everybody who defends whipping – and I do – you’ll find someone else who stands firmly against it.
But what Peterson did to his son deserves condemnation, not anybody’s defense of it. No father should beat his son raw – punishment or not.
Still, we were hard-pressed to know what punishment Peterson’s conduct would earn from NFL officials. They have a past of moving slowly on issues of conduct outside the playing field, and only in recent months have league officials realized that bad behavior tarnishes their brand.
Adrian Peterson acted badly, too. Peterson can call it tough love if he wants, but no one should want that kind of love.
The question NFL officials have to weigh is what’s next. They have suspended Peterson for the rest of the season, but can their suspension last beyond that? What are they willing to do to rehabilitate a man who sounded as if he didn’t believe he had done anything wrong?
“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,” Goodell wrote in a letter to Peterson. “You must commit yourself to your counseling and rehabilitative effort, properly care for your children, and have no further violations of law or league policy.”
Black men like Peterson need more than a letter and threats. They need help, and Goodell insists the NFL will provide it. He has ordered Peterson to see a league-appointed psychiatrist next month.
We hope a psychiatrist will help Peterson, who pleaded no contest Nov. 4 to misdemeanor reckless assault. We hope we will not see him in court or on the suspended list again.
Because we don’t want to think of Peterson as a child abuser; we want to talk about how Peterson, whom Goodell accused of showing no remorse, abuses NFL defenses with his punishing style of running the football.
And the talk about Peterson will, indeed, return to football, because he will return to the Vikings or another NFL team at some point. But will what he did to his child, and all the publicity surrounding it, scar the boy forever?
If the publicity does scar the boy, what punishment can Goodell or anybody else hand Peterson for that?
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)