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Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been suspended without pay for the remainder of the 2014 NFL season, the league announced Tuesday, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell criticizing the star for his behavior and for not showing any “meaningful remorse.”
Earlier this month, Peterson pled no contest to the misdemeanor charge of reckless assault of a child, but the NFL said Tuesday that he violated the league’s personal conduct policy “in an incident of abusive discipline that he inflicted on his four year-old-son.”
Goodell also directed Peterson to meet with a psychologist and complete a counseling, treatment and community service program. The timing of his reinstatement to the league, which won’t be considered before April 15, will be based on the results of that program and his commitment to change, Goodell said in a letter to Peterson Tuesday.
“You must commit yourself to your counseling and rehabilitative effort, properly care for your children, and have no further violations of law or league policy,” he wrote.
Goodell wrote that Peterson’s punishment is consistent with his modifications to the NFL’s personal conduct policy on Aug. 28, saying there were aggravating circumstances that warrant further discipline than the baseline six-game suspension.
“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,” Goodell wrote. “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.”
Peterson was indicted in September on a felony charge of injury to a child for using a wooden switch to discipline his four-year-old son earlier this year. Peterson said he never intended to hurt him and was disciplining him in the same way he had been as a child. He was put on paid leave from the Vikings while he dealt with his legal problems.
Peterson is just one of a handful of NFL athletes dealing with domestic-violence incidents that have put pressure on the league to take actions to punish and prevent this behavior. Among other things, the NFL is working to revise its personal conduct policy and is set to unveil a new domestic-violence and sexual-assault policy this month.
The NFL had been working with Peterson and the NFL Players Association to review his conduct in the days after the Vikings running back struck a plea deal.
Peterson has three days to appeal the league’s decision. If he appeals, he’ll remain on the NFL’s exempt list and will continue to be paid pending a decision.
“It is imperative that you to avoid any incident of this kind in the future,” Goodell wrote to Peterson. “Any further violation of the Personal Conduct Policy will result in additional discipline and may subject you to banishment from the NFL.”
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