I should start this post by saying that the issue of moralizing often comes up when we’re editing pieces and I often try to push to remove moralizing from our work. My outlook is that all of our readers are adults capable of thinking for themselves and they don’t need us to tell them what to think about issues outside of fantasy football. I might think that Adrian Peterson is in all likelihood a horrible parent, but I shouldn’t try to convince you of my position. There are also some “let he who has not sinned” issues here with many people who live their lives in private passing judgment on people whose lives are necessarily lived in the public eye.
Having said that, parsing out the range of outcomes for Peterson is an issue that falls within the scope of this site and I have some thoughts.
First, my perception is that what is happening right now is 85 percent political and 15 percent legal and/or related to the NFL’s policies. Keep in mind that before Peterson was indicted, a grand jury heard the evidence and decided not to indict him. Also keep in mind that the Vikings looked at the issue and initially thought that Peterson playing was a tenable position. The Vikings were wrong, but just the fact that they thought that initially is illustrative of the same thing indicated by the fact that the grand jury didn’t initially indict Peterson. If you add in the fact that multiple former and current players have spoken up to say that what Peterson did is accepted punishment in some households, I think you can see that this is an issue that is not settled culturally. There’s disagreement. Whether or not the disagreement is reasonable is not for me to say.
Also keep in mind that the prevailing issue in all of the domestic violence discussion that has happened this year is the political/PR impact of visual evidence. So the fact that Peterson’s case contains visual evidence is not good for him. Visual evidence completely swung the gate on Ray Rice’s case, taking it from from minor outrage to a full blown shit storm that now threatens Roger Goodell’s job. Imagine a different reality where AP is only accused of using a switch on his child, but where the images aren’t on the Internet. Public reaction would be different whether that makes sense or not.
But to the extent that the political and public relations component of the case is likely to drive public perception and thus the league and Vikings reactions, there are probably things that Peterson could do to help his cause. First, considering that the grand jury wouldn’t indict him, he may have some latitude to come to a plea agreement with the prosecutor so that he has some kind of suspended sentence in exchange for public service focused on abuse issues. I’m wildly speculating here, and I’m not an attorney so back up the salt truck, we’re going to need more than a grain. However, Peterson could then follow that plea with a tour of interviews where he goes on all of the shows on which public figures typically do their crying and explains that he disciplined his child the only way he knew, but that he knows better now and is going to be an advocate to educate people on this issue. Remember that this is not a Michael Vick situation. Some people will be outraged by what Peterson did and some people think that America is getting soft and could use more whippings. Peterson likely already has some people in his corner and a series of mea culpas could win back others. The same blue staters likely to be against corporal punishment could also be sympathetic if Peterson comes forward to describe how he was disciplined as a child and how that’s all he knows. There’s already a story of one of Peterson’s high school coaches using a wooden paddle on Peterson, for what it’s worth.
There are suspension issues at play and that gets difficult to project because like I said, this is largely a political process. Rice was not suspended indefinitely because it fit with the new domestic violence guidelines. He was suspended indefinitely because it wasn’t politically viable for the NFL to do anything else. If Peterson does get some handle on the legal and public relations side of his problem, it could go a long way toward mitigating any NFL action. He’s likely to miss a number of games in any event. The question becomes whether he loses a full season. If Peterson fights his legal issues and/or remains defiant, I would guess that the NFL would just use his admissions in the case against him and they’ll suspend him for however long they can. If he shows some remorse and manages to win over some of the people/sponsors who currently think he’s a monster, then things could be better for him.
I would estimate that the most likely scenario is AP losing a full season. The only way I think he could salvage a part of a season is by pursuing the course I describe above. There’s no reason to expect that Peterson wants to pursue that course, there’s no reason to expect that the prosecutor would cooperate in coming to an expeditious conclusion of the case when he knows that Peterson is only interested in doing that in order to get back on the field. There’s also no indication that public relations people in football have any idea what they’re doing, as evidenced by the mess we’ve observed over the past month. In fact the recent comments from Peterson attorney Rusty Hardin have been comments of defiance and where a trial is contemplated. The plea/PR combo that I describe above does not seem to be part of the playbook right now.
So my estimate is that the most likely scenario is that Peterson is done for 2014, with some chance – maybe 10 to 20 percent – that he could salvage between four and eight games. In fantasy football all we can do is look at the current reality and make our best guess. That’s my current best guess.