You should care that Adrian Peterson used to beat his son

Adrian Peterson is a now free agent.

Adrian Peterson is also a classic example of an athlete that the public is willing to forgive and forget just about anything for if he can play a sport at a world-class level. And it’s not only them. I don’t want to place the bulk of the blame on people. My real contempt sits with sports media in general, because there is just no way if they were doing their jobs properly that people would even want Adrian Peterson to play for their team.

Instead, places like ESPN will volunteer to cover just about every angle of Adrian Peterson besides the most important one. Some, not so unlike me, might call it the only one:

Adrian Peterson used to beat his son’s crotch with a switch. Repeatedly.

So here are all the articles from the last 16 hours ESPN has posted about Adrian Peterson:

Even in the buyer beware article there wasn’t a mention of anything off the field that might dampen Adrian Peterson’s market. And why should it? If the media doesn’t care, the public won’t care. If the public doesn’t care, why should ownership care?

I don’t know whose interests the media are really protecting here. I know reporters get a decent amount of flack on social media for taking moral stances on things like child abuse. Though, I’m not clear on why they would give a shit about offending people who support such things. Journalists and talking heads should not cower to the worst that humanity has to offer. They should be educating them that some things — and I dare say beating a child’s testicles with a stick probably qualifies — are not okay. Not then and not ever.

Nonetheless, Adrian Peterson is going to play for some NFL team next year, and if he performs at a reasonably high level he’ll be celebrated like the next guy. We find this in all sports, and for all types of things. Baseball players who are bigoted against the idea of having a gay teammate in the locker room. Football players who beat their girlfriends and wives. Any old athlete who drinks and drives and kills (or seriously injures) someone on the road. It goes on.

So I do not continue to write Adrian Peterson’s name for reasons that you are not already painfully aware of who this article is about. I write it because every time you hear it, from now on, you should not be thinking about the football player. You should be thinking about the guy who beat a defenseless child in one of the most grotesque of fashions. Every time he scores a touchdown, or has a 100-yard rushing game, you should be thinking about it. You should never forget, and never forgive.

No, I’m not holier than thou. I just don’t find it unreasonable to hold human beings accountable for objectively, morally, wrong behavior. Me personally, I won’t even draft a productive player onto my fantasy football team if they have had past problems with domestic abuse or, in Adrian Peterson’s specific case, child abuse. I can win with good guys just as easily.

And it isn’t like my favorite teams aren’t guilty of the same problems, too, to varying degrees. The Chiefs awarded Tyreke Hill — who in college beat up his pregnant girlfriend — their Offensive Rookie Of The Year and had him in the running for team MVP. He was also selected to the NFL’s Pro Bowl. Duke’s Grayson Allen has the face of a choir boy, but he too is a shithead who trips opposing players during basketball games. Nobody is perfect, and I get that. But again it shouldn’t be too much to ask that they are held to an honest standard commensurate to the offenses they are guilty of.

In reality, the only directly proportional relationship seems to be how good a player is equals how much he can get away with.

That might make the franchises themselves the most cynical agents in this structure. At the end of the day they are the ones paying these guys, and winning is the name of the game. Winning puts people in the seats, and money in the pockets of the already wealthy sports owners. If given the choice between making the playoffs with a few less than reputable characters, or not, they would almost unanimously take the wins and worry about the public relations gymnastics later.

I’m just looking for the real message. By willfully employing guys who beat women and children, what message does that send to women and children? And what message does it send to fans who pay attention like I do, and care like I do?

As always, sports are entertainment. They are not real life. In real life there are consequences to these crimes. In sports you hear about it, then watch and read the redemption stories while places like ESPN give these athletes a platform. Then we all wash our hands while ESPN goes back to sticking to sports.

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