The Minnesota Vikings thought the Adrian Peterson story would blow over. That much was clear in GM Rick Spielman’s botched attempt to simultaneously convince sportswriters on Monday that (a) “we take it serious” (sic) and (b) “we feel this is discipline”, the latter comment clearly was designed to conclude that even though Peterson brought out welts and blood while “spanking” a four-year-old-child, his heart was in the right place.
The sportswriters weren’t buying it and neither was anyone else who compared one Spielman explanation with the next one he offered.
The Vikings were trying to run this one up the gut and outraged sportswriters, the Radisson hotel chain, a governor who already delivered the bags of taxpayer cash to Vikings ownership, a couple of sports jersey sellers, and a comatose commissioner weren’t likely to stop them.
That’s when Anheuser-Busch went nuclear with this short statement yesterday:
We are disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season. We are not yet satisfied with the league’s handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code. We have shared our concerns and expectations with the league.
“They fear that whatever coalition comes together to protest the N.F.L. will target them as sponsors,” said Lesa Ukman, who publishes the IEG Sponsorship Report, a biweekly newsletter on sports, arts and entertainment marketing, tells the New York Times. “They will want people to understand they are not part of the problem.”
For this, of course, we have to look beyond the reality that they actually are.
Alcohol fuels the beatings of thousands of kids in America at the hands of parents who didn’t read the “drink responsibility” fine print that’s intended to absolve them of the messy reality of their product.
But the Peterson story hasn’t been hypocrisy-free up to now and there’s no reason to expect it would be now.
Anheuser-Busch’s not-so-veiled threat paved the way for even more corporate sponsors to market the appearance of a conscience.
The story is and has been about money and its ability to trump the treatment of children. Give Anheuser-Busch credit for at least understanding the image problem; that’s more than the NFL was capable of doing.
Not until there was serious money on the table — Anheuser-Busch has a deal with the NFL worth more than $1.5 billion — did the Vikings announce overnight that Peterson was done with the team — at least for now.
“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 Wilf family 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.”
They didn’t get this right. Saying you have a strong stance on protecting children and taking a strong stance on protecting children are two different things.
And if you want to make a strong statement on the matter, you don’t do it by slipping a statement in the inbox at 2 in the morning. You stand up and make it.
“We feel this is discipline” intentionally took the allegations against Peterson out of the child abuse category and put it squarely in the “parental discipline” column. That’s not a strong stance. You can’t make a “balanced” decision when the issue is the beating of a child.
Meanwhile, Peterson, whose Vikings career is over, played victim in an overnight Tweet. Again.
— Adrian Peterson (@AdrianPeterson) September 17, 2014
Related: Mother of Adrian Peterson’s son wants injury photos removed (USA Today).