After a day of public pressure from angry fans and concerned sponsors, the Minnesota Vikings have reversed course and placed star running back Adrian Peterson on the exempt-commissioner’s permission list, a move that will require him to stay away from the team while he addresses child abuse charges in Texas.
The Vikings made the announcement early Wednesday morning, about a day and a half after initially deciding that Peterson could play with the team while the legal process played out. Peterson is charged with a felony for using a wooden switch to spank his 4-year-old son and now could miss the rest of the season while the case proceeds through the court system.
The Vikings came under heavy criticism for their initial stance. Several sponsors responded by either suspending their deals with the Vikings or severing ties with Peterson, prompting Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf to revisit the situation on Tuesday.
“While we were trying to make a balanced decision yesterday, after further reflection we have concluded that this resolution is best for the Vikings and for Adrian,” the Wilfs said in a statement. “We want to be clear: we have a strong stance regarding the protection and welfare of children, and we want to be sure we get this right. At the same time we want to express our support for Adrian and acknowledge his seven-plus years of outstanding commitment to this organization and this community.”
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Peterson was indicted last week in Montgomery County, Texas, after admitting to authorities that he struck his son with a tree branch. Peterson said he was disciplining his son the same way his own father disciplined him while growing up in Palestine, Texas, and didn’t intend to hurt him.
The Vikings deactivated him for the 30-7 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday while they gathered more information. But on Monday they announced that Peterson was being reinstated and expected to play this weekend at New Orleans.
The about face came after the Radisson hotel chains suspended its sponsorship with the Vikings, Papa John’s considered doing the same, and Anheuser-Busch said it was “disappointed and increasingly concerned” with the negative attention brought to the league by Ray Rice’s assault on his wife and Peterson’s arrest.
Castrol Motor Oil, Special Olympics Minnesota and Mylan Inc. all severed ties with Peterson, and Twin Cities Nike stores pulled Peterson’s jerseys from its shelves.
“This is the best possible outcome given the circumstances,” Peterson’s agent, Ben Dogra, told The Associated Press of the Vikings’ decision. “Adrian understands the gravity of the situation and this enables him to take care of his personal situation. We fully support Adrian and he looks forward to watching his teammates and coaches being successful during his absence.”
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, who spearheaded an effort to secure $477 million in public money to help build the team a new stadium, and Sen. Al Franken were among the many who called for the Vikings to reconsider their position.
Peterson’s first court appearance isn’t until Oct. 8, and with the Vikings specifying that he must stay away “until the legal proceedings are resolved,” it appears there is a possibility that he won’t play again this year.
The Vikings said they had deliberations with the NFL over the previous two days and informed the league they were revisiting the situation. Executives were at the team’s Winter Park headquarters late into the night on Tuesday, discussing how to respond to the avalanche of criticism.
“After giving the situation additional thought, we have decided this is the appropriate course of action for the organization and for Adrian,” the Wilfs said in their statement. “We are always focused on trying to make the right decision as an organization.
“We embrace our role — and the responsibilities that go with it — as a leader in the community, as a business partner and as an organization that can build bridges with our fans and positively impact this great region. We appreciate and value the input we have received from our fans, our partners and the community.”
What this means for Peterson’s future with the team remains to be seen. The 29-year-old has been the face of the franchise practically since he was drafted in 2007, one of the most popular and marketable stars in the NFL whose All Day Foundation charity is devoted to helping children.
But the foundation’s website was shuttered on Tuesday, at one point posting a message that it “will re-engage after Adrian, his family, and staff have reflected on how the current situation impacts the direction for Adrian’s philanthropy.”
Peterson has rushed for 10,190 yards and 86 touchdowns in his NFL career. He won the MVP award in 2012 after rushing for 2,097 yards in his return from a torn ACL.
“We will support Adrian during this legal and personal process, but we firmly believe and realize this is the right decision,” the Wilfs said. “We hope that all of our fans can respect the process that we have gone through to reach this final decision.”