Adrian Peterson’s bold stand

Roughly six months removed from a horrific scandal, Adrian Peterson is stealing headlines again. As the NFL Combine wraps up, the chatter among the league about the exciting prospects has been quieted. Instead, fans, coaches and other players alike watch as Peterson begins a war against the Minnesota Vikings. The former MVP was suspended by the NFL this season for beating his three-year old child. Rumors surfaced that Peterson was not happy with his franchise’s response to the allegations and later the support team officials provided. Peterson decided that he no longer wishes to play for the Vikings as it was announced today that his agent had a heated discussion with Vikings’ Vice President of Football Operations that Peterson will never play for the team again.

This whole situation is getting out of hand quickly. Just a few short weeks ago, Vikings’ officials entertained the media, explaining that they were excited to get Peterson back on the field and of course, the team wanted him back. Now, it does not seem like a happy reunion is on the horizon. For the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, his time in the Twin Cities is at an end. I am reading reports that the Vikings are unwilling to trade Peterson and want him to remain with the team. Meanwhile, it appears Peterson has once again made it public that he wants to play for Jerry Jones in Dallas. Time to roll through some possible Peterson scenarios.

What probably will not happen, is the Cowboys landing AP. The Cowboys are cash-strapped and have their own free agent priorities. Peterson will count $15.4 million according to Spotrac, making him just about impossible for the Cowboys to afford. With Dallas ruled out, and we can likely cross off any chance of him going to a division rival, the question remains where else could Peterson wind up next season.

Cleveland could be a major player as this all unfolds. Cleveland has a couple of young backs who have had middling success in a running back by committee setting. Landing Peterson in the backfield could solve a lot of the Browns offensive problems. It certainly makes the job for whomever the Browns have under center, whether it is Johnny Manziel, Brian Hoyer or someone else, infinitely easier. The Browns also have the assets to land a player like Peterson, with two first round picks in this year’s draft and just short of $50 million in cap space. Not likely that Peterson is satisfied with going to a perennial basement dweller in Cleveland but the Browns went 7-9 this year with very little offense. This added boost could be all they need to make it over that playoff hump. And in a year where there are going to be a lot of big name free agents at wide receiver, the Browns could construct a solid offense to pair with their stellar defense.

Another team that has to jump to mind is Indianapolis, with their less than ideal situation at running back The Colts are in the midst of negotiating a new deal for Andrew Luck, but with almost $38 million available for Indy this season, the Colts could afford to land the star rusher. Indianapolis would have to find some assets to send over to Minnesota but judging by the Vikings’ predicament, the deal might come off a little cheaper than would be usually expected. Unfortunately, the Colts will likely want to save their picks and cap space to bolster their defense. Still would be a great fit.

Two last wildcards to land the veteran running back are San Diego and Seattle. With all of the injuries the Chargers had at running back this past season, a sturdy replacement could make sense. Giving Philip Rivers an elite rusher that he hasn’t had since Ladanian Tomlinson left the Chargers could make this offense incredibly scary. For Seattle, the only reason this is even being mentioned is because of the situation surrounding Marshawn Lynch. Lynch is apparently mulling retirement and if the Seahawks believe he is heading out of the league, they could make a splash to land another massive star in their backfield. Not overly likely, with Russell Wilson’s contract yet to be decided but still would fit a need if Lynch did in fact call it quits.

With all of this turmoil and chaos surrounding Peterson at the moment, I think it will eventually just blow over. There are few teams in the NFL willing to pay upwards of $15 million for a running back. Not to mention that after a year out of the league and Peterson not getting any younger, it might be difficult to find a buyer at his expensive price tag. In reality, I think the Vikings’ will find a way to smooth things over down the line and get their priced ball carrier back in a purple uniform. Still, with the NFL you never know, so this should be a fun situation to keep an eye on.

Taking the first step

I know I have been talking about this a lot recently but the story continues to develop. Yesterday afternoon the 31 NFL owners (the Green Bay Packers do not have an owner because they are owned by their fans) unanimously agreed to begin implementing a new player conduct policy. It mainly deals with disciplinary actions in cases mostly related to family violence. These are obviously in response to the chaos that ensued with the cases surrounding Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. The policy sets the protocol for how the NFL should respond if another case similar to either of theirs arises in the future. Implementing this policy doesn’t solve everything but it is certainly a start.

The biggest accomplishment of the new policy is weakening NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. It allows for the use of independent investigations and a special counsel who will “oversee the initial discipline” according to ESPN.com. The issue is that the commissioner still plays a role in the appeals process and now permitted to appoint private experts who help with the decision. That is a lot of power for the commissioner to have. It also keeps Goodell involved in the process in general which is not something I am particularly keen on seeing continue after Rice and Peterson were treated with so much leniency.
I say get Goodell out of the question entirely. The NFL commissioner is meant to work for the goal of improving the league as a whole, not playing judge in situations where he does not have the background to handle to problem properly. It seems as though he is desperately clinging on to power that he really should not have been entitled to in the first place. If Goodell really wants to continue serving as commissioner then he needs to have a better understanding of what that means. He cannot be controlling all from his office and slowly making himself untouchable. He is becoming corrupt with this power and seems reluctant to relinquish any of it.

So like I said, this is a good first step. The next step now is getting Goodell out of the equation when it comes to player discipline and moving those issues to an independent third party who can make an informed decision without any influence from anywhere else. Goodell has proven that he can be influenced. After discovering the public and his precious sponsor’s reactions to his light punishment for Rice, Goodell reversed course and went to the other extreme suspending him indefinitely. This is no longer a question of can whether Goodell can handle this responsibility. He can’t and he needs to be replaced in this capacity. If that day does not come in the near future, then it is time for the league to move in a different direction and hire a new commissioner to run the NFL.

Who is really at fault?

This was initially written as an essay but I have decided to post it anyways because I think it helps people understand the model the media is meant to follow and it places some long overdue blame on Nike for failing to act.

Media outlets have enormous power in American society. They have the ability to influence the thinking of a democratic people and change its perspective on any given topic. The media is meant to set the public’s agenda as well as transmit values. Each medium, ranging from newspapers to social media, is responsible for filling this role for news consumers. A recent situation involving the NFL and domestic violence presented the perfect opportunity for journalism to showcase its abilities. It could have pressed for new values and readjusted the American agenda to enact a leadership change in the NFL while engaging its readership about a major social issue in child abuse. The mishandling of a child abuse scandal involving NFL superstar Adrian Peterson brought reporters, publishers and bloggers alike up to bat. It would have been so easy for them to get it right but they struck out. The media should have promoted the idea that a major league sponsor Nike pull its sponsorship of the NFL for the league’s poor handling of domestic violence discipline and then rebuked Nike when it failed to properly sever ties.

First off, the relationship between these two mega corporations holds the potential to be a make or break one in the fate of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell received intense pressure to step down for his leniency with Peterson but retained his position. The reason that Nike represents the perfect company to war with the NFL is two-fold. To start, it is the premier, multinational sports apparel company and holds a lot of sway in the general sporting community. The second aspect is Nike is the provider and sponsor of every NFL jersey made and worn by players and fans. In most news stories published about the scandal, Nike has been framed as neutral and taking the appropriate steps to react to the events of Peterson as they came to light.

Unfortunately, Nike did only what was predictable. On September 16, Nike suspended its endorsement contract with Adrian Peterson following his suspension from the NFL. ESPN first reported the news via Twitter[1] and Nike stated that the company “‘in no way condones child abuse or domestic violence of any kind and has shared [its] concerns with the NFL.’”[2] This was a simplistic step and did not take any guts for the company to distance itself from the messy situation claiming it made its displeasure clear to the league. Nike should have taken more progressive actions to send the NFL a powerful message. The largest sports apparel company in the world should have terminated its sponsorship of the league. The Globe and Mail reported Manish Tripathi, a professor at Emory University, went on record saying, “‘It’s such a no-risk thing [for corporations] to come out against domestic violence, waving their finger but not pulling any money.’”[3] Tripathi makes a compelling argument essentially undermining everything Nike had done. Looking closer, Nike’s motivation might have stemmed from somewhere else.

Now, Nike certainly took the proper precautions in suspending Peterson. Even after Peterson’s suspended, it is hard for Nike to completely disassociate itself from him. TMZ reported that Peterson, the day after being accused, emerged from his house decked out in Nike gear. [4] This was before Nike had officially suspended his endorsement but this still connected Nike to Peterson in consumers’ minds. So logically, it made sense in regard to Nike’s public image to leave Peterson in the dust. That still does not justify continuing to sponsor NFL however, the answer can be found in the numbers. According to The Wall Street Journal, when Nike took over as the official jersey provider for the league, the company it replaced, Reebok, lost an estimated $250 – $275 million in revenue.[5] Nike would likely lose that amount in cutting the NFL loose. It is unfortunate these are the correct economical steps because it allows Nike to be conceded. Yet, there should have been an upside because the media could have exploited Nike’s selfish nature to force the company to take further steps.

However, this is exactly where news outlets fell down on the job. Nike did not pressure the NFL enough, which is where the media should have picked up the slack. After missing the first chance to drive Roger Goodell out, Nike gave publications another opportunity. All they had to do was emphasize the self-centered actions Nike had taken while appearing as though it was disapproving of domestic violence when in reality it was only protecting itself. Yet, mass media dropped the ball a second time, failing to identify a pressure point that could have started a movement. The United States’ media missed fulfilling its niche in a socially responsible model of journalism. Instead, the media suffers some serious blame. While this does not absolve Roger Goodell or Nike from the mistakes they have made, it does continue the cycle of unfulfilled responsibilities. Goodell should have put a stop to all of this taking the appropriate approach in punishing Peterson. Once Goodell did not act, the duty shifted to Nike, who should have shamed the NFL and created an impact by yanking their financial support. When Nike missed the opportunity, the responsibility landed with the media to spark controversy and enact change. Yet the media did not frame its articles as needed and thus, the burden then fell to the usual news consumers. Thankfully, the American people picked up some of the slack utilizing social media as a method for spreading the message.

To elaborate, Twitter exploded with demands for Goodell’s resignation and featured calls for sponsors to take the lead. A tweet from @shall1432 on September 16 said, “We need more #NFLsponsors to stand up and challenge the #NFL on their stance with #DomesticViolence. #ChildAbuse.”[6] This is a clear call for NFL sponsors to quit taking the easy way out and find a way to use their leverage against the NFL in a beneficial way. Then a tweet from September 17 by @tedotte read, “The sad truth is that brands pulling sponsorship $$ will be the reason @nfl @nflcommish are forced to address issues.”[7] Another tweet from the following day by @RamfusBrock had some harsh words for sponsors, “Tell #NFLsponsors that until they drop the @NFL,they’re part of its #DomesticViolence problem! #GoodellMustGo.”[8] This perpetuates the idea that these sponsors need to be held accountable and now they are being linked to the problem of domestic violence.

In summation, the media, across all platforms, insufficiently served its most important role. It inadequately addressed the reactions to a child abuse investigation from Roger Goodell and Nike respectively. The facts were continually presented that Peterson had abused his son yet few in the media could seem to make an impactful statement; they just kept repeating the mantra that domestic violence was wrong and Peterson should be punished. The opportunity laid out in front of media outlets all over the nation and the majority disappointed in their coverage. There are only so many times where a social issue explodes into a nationwide drama where the media has the opportunity to shift the public’s attention in a way that makes a significant difference. They could have used the power they so knowingly wield to punish Goodell for his offenses and blatant disregard for basic civic rights. Instead the media missed their cue and still no one seems to have discovered that they blew a huge chance to solidify their spot in a true socially responsible journalistic system.
[1] The Associated Press. (2014, September 18). PepsiCo CEO voices concern about NFL, but gives support to Goodell. The Globe and Mail, Sports. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/football/pepsico-ceo-voices-concern-about-nfl-but-gives-support-to-goodell/article20660513/
[2] Rovell, D. (2014, September 17). Nike suspends Adrian Peterson deal. Retrieved October 7, 2014, from ESPN.com website: http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/11542737/nike-suspends-adrian-peterson-endorsement-contract
[3] The Associated Press. (2014, September 18). PepsiCo CEO voices concern about NFL, but gives support to Goodell. The Globe and Mail, Sports. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/football/pepsico-ceo-voices-concern-about-nfl-but-gives-support-to-goodell/article20660513/
[4] TMZ Staff. (2014, September 16). Adrian Peterson…hey Nike…we’re still cool, right? Retrieved October 7, 2014, from http://www.tmz.com/2014/09/16/adrian-peterson-nike-swoosh-sponsor/
[5] Kell, J. (2012, April 4). Nike show NFL gear. The Wall Street Journal, Business. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303816504577321743295501220 [6] @shall1432. (2014, September 16). @shall1432: We need more #NFLsponsors to stand up and challenge the #NFL on their stance with #DomesticViolence. #ChildAbuse [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/shall1432/status/511993607596036097
[7] @tedotte. (n.d.). https://twitter.com/tedotte/status/512322842176667648 [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/tedotte/status/512322842176667648
[8] @RamfusBrock. (2014, September 18). @RamfusBrock: Tell #NFLsponsors that until they drop the @NFL,they’re part of its #DomesticViolence problem! #GoodellMustGo [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/ramfusbrock/status/512746280032800770