Saturday, September 13, 2014

Shining the light on an everyday problem

In this country, the abuse of women and children is, sadly, not news. It's estimated that 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. And per an organization called ChildHelp, there are more than 3 million reports of child abuse involving approximately 6 million children.

Unfortunately these issues seemed to gain their just due only because of two high profile instances week this past involving the NFL. I wrote about the Ray Rice saga earlier this week, and how an in-elevator video was finally released to the public. It showed Rice delivering a literal knockout punch to his then fiancee. Rice's employer, the Baltimore Ravens, quickly terminated his contract upon the video going viral and the NFL upped his suspension from a paltry 2 games to an indefinite period of time.

Just when one began to think there couldn't be anything more disturbing than the Rice saga, we hear a story of a 4-year old boy suffering terrible injuries at the hands of his NFL father.

Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson has been indicted by a Montgomery County, Texas, grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child and a warrant has been issued for his arrest. The team deactivated him for Sunday's home game against the Patriots.

Peterson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, told in a text that Peterson "certainly will" surrender to authorities.

Hardin issued a statement Friday saying his client's conduct "involves using a switch to spank his son." According to a report by Sports Radio 610 in Houston, Peterson removed the leaves of a tree branch, which he referred to in a police report as "a switch," to strike the child.

"This indictment follows Adrian's full cooperation with authorities who have been looking into this matter. Adrian is a loving father who used his judgment as a parent to discipline his son," Hardin said in his statement. "He used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing up in east Texas. Adrian has never hidden from what happened."

Hardin said Peterson has cooperated fully with authorities and voluntarily testified before the grand jury for several hours.

"Adrian will address the charges with the same respect and responsiveness he has brought to this inquiry from its beginning," Hardin said. "It is important to remember that Adrian never intended to harm his son and deeply regrets the unintentional injury."

Look, I'm not going to get into the merits of corporal punishment. Whether you think it's OK to spank your kid or not isn't the issue here. What Peterson did was excessive. I saw some of the photographs of the child's injuries. Upon seeing them, my initial reaction was a desire that Peterson never don the uniform of my favorite NFL team ever again. I can't begin to fathom what a 4-year old child could have possibly done to warrant that kind of punishment.

On the football end, Peterson was a fan favorite here in Minnesota, given he was one of the most dynamic running backs the NFL has ever seen. He was also viewed as a good guy in the community, given all of the charitable endeavors in which he's involved. As such, many reacted with shock and devastation at these charges. Personally, I learned a hard lesson long ago about hero worship. Over a decade ago, it was revealed that one of my all-time favorite baseball players, Kirby Puckett, was not the fun-loving jovial human being we witnessed on the ball field. Allegations of adultery as well as assaulting a woman in a restaurant bathroom certainly tarnished his reputation. From that day forward, I could certainly celebrate the impressive accomplishments of a professional athlete without really needing to know anything (nor caring) about his/her private life.

I guess the one positive aspect of the Peterson saga is that he's been fully cooperative and up front about his actions. Whether or not that will make a difference in a courtroom trial is another matter. Lest we forget, Peterson is represented by the same Rusty Hardin who somehow got Roger Clemens acquitted on charges he lied to Congress about PED usage.

Sheesh, so much for sports being a superficial distraction from real life, eh?


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