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NFL Suspends Adrian Peterson For At Least Remainder Of 2014 Season

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson arrives at the courthouse for an appearance Tuesday in Conroe, Texas. He pleaded no contest in his child abuse case, avoiding jail time.
Pat Sullivan

The National Football League has suspended Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson for the remainder of the 2014 season.

Commissioner Roger Goodell informed Peterson of his suspension in a letter made public on Tuesday.

If you remember, Peterson avoided jail time by pleading no contest in a child abuse case. The NFL star was accused of using a wooden switch to hit his 4-year-old son.

In his letter, Goodell said Peterson would be allowed to return to the field after he successfully completes a counseling and treatment program. Goodell explained that he was issuing a harsh punishment because of the "aggravating circumstances" in the case. He wrote:

"First, the injury was inflicted on a child who was only four years old. The difference in size and strength between you and the child is significant, and your actions clearly caused physical injury to the child. While an adult may have a number of options when confronted with abuse — to flee, to fight back, or to seek help from law enforcement — none of those options is realistically available to a four-year old child. Further, the injury inflicted on your son includes the emotional and psychological trauma to a young child who suffers criminal physical abuse at the hands of his father.

"Second, the repetitive use of a switch in this instance is the functional equivalent of a weapon, particularly in the hands of someone with the strength of an accomplished professional athlete.

"Third, you have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct. When indicted, you acknowledged what you did but said that you would not 'eliminate whooping my kids' and defended your conduct in numerous published text messages to the child's mother. You also said that you felt 'very confident with my actions because I know my intent.' These comments raise the serious concern that you do not fully appreciate the seriousness of your conduct, or even worse, that you may feel free to engage in similar conduct in the future."

The NFL Players Association said Peterson would appeal this punishment.

"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 Association 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."

The NFL is still reeling from a string of off-field controversies involving some of its star players. After mounting calls for his resignation for his handling of the Ray Rice controversy, Goodell announced that former FBI Director Robert Mueller would lead an investigation into the way the league handled the case.

If you remember, after news emerged that Rice punched his then-fiancee, the NFL handed down a two-game suspension, but after mounting pressure and a second video that actually showed the punch, the league suspended him indefinitely.

Rice is in the process of appealing that suspension, arguing that he is being punished twice for the same infraction.

In some ways, Peterson's case took much the same turn: After reports emerged that he had abused his 4-year-old son, the Vikings benched him, then reinstated him, but ultimately decided to exclude him from all team activities.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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