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Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice: Mice or Men?

By Barry Goldstein

 

What I Want from Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice

The NFL suspended Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson for the rest of the season in response to his plea bargain taking responsibility for the criminal beating he inflicted on his four-year-old son.  Adrian Peterson and the NFL Players Association immediately announced an appeal.  Ray Rice already had a hearing in his effort to find legal technicalities to avoid full responsibility for his brutal attack on Janay Palmer that left her unconscious.  If the players and the association understood what is important in these cases they would withdraw the appeals immediately.

The penalties might seem unfair when we consider that a generation ago there would have been no criminal charges or league suspensions.  Even a year ago any suspensions would have been limited to a game or two.  It is not that Rice and Peterson were treated unfairly, but that past abusers were not held accountable.  As Adrian Peterson noted, the discipline he inflicted was the same as he experienced growing up and that children have suffered for thousands of years.  The same is true of domestic violence which has long been tolerated and is still minimized in our society.  This abuse has always caused enormous harm to women and children, but it is only fairly recently that medical science has revealed the enormous harm caused by our tolerance of domestic violence and child abuse.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released a series of groundbreaking research called the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Studies.  It demonstrates that the fear caused by abuse creates stress that is associated with the ten leading causes of death in the United States.  Our present level of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, asthma, AIDs, auto immune diseases, mental illness, suicide, crime, substance abuse and many other social problems are based on our long tolerance for domestic violence and child abuse.  Adrian Peterson’s son will recover from his physical injuries, but far more critical will be the long-term harm from the fear and stress caused by the father’s beating.  There may be treatment that could help the boy avoid the consequences, but it will require that Adrian Peterson, the mother and others in his life help him to feel safe.  This is one reason why the NFL was right to emphasize the importance for Adrian Peterson to stop minimizing what he did; take full responsibility for his actions and genuinely work to prevent abuse in his life and the community.

Personally, I am a strong supporter of players and unions and have no doubt NFL players have been mistreated by the league in many ways.  But these are not the cases to look for legal technicalities or tactics to avoid accountability because there are considerations far more important.  The players and the NFL have an enormous platform that can be used to benefit or hurt society.  The important medical research is just starting to be used for prevention just at a time when the attention from the Rice and Peterson cases have focused tremendous attention on abuse issues.  They can use the attention created by these crimes to help  dramatically reduce diseases and social problems caused by our tolerance of domestic violence and child abuse.  This will make our society healthier, wealthier and far less fearful.  Or they can focus on the narrow interests of Rice and Peterson to find a loophole so they can play a game.

Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice and the Players Association should announce that they believe the procedures by the NFL in these cases was unfair and will work to reform them, but are dropping the appeals because of something more important.  Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson should embrace their penalties and accept the consequences because it is more important to prevent abuse than to play a game.  I believe the best thing they can do to restore their reputations is to sacrifice their personal interests for the good of their victims and of society.  Continuing to use all avenues to minimize accountability sends a message that nothing has changed and their personal interests are most important.

The Quincy Solution is a group of proven practices that resulted in a dramatic reduction of domestic violence and other crime in places like Quincy, Nashville and San Diego.  We know how to dramatically reduce domestic violence and this will reduce the deadly and other diseases and the social problems caused by our long tolerance of domestic violence and child abuse.  I am glad that the NFL and the Players Association are sending out messages to prevent domestic violence.  The next step is to actually help prevent domestic violence by using their enormous platform to promote the Quincy Solution.  This is an enormous opportunity that must not be intercepted.



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