Adrian Peterson Suspension Shows Vikings, NFL Care About One Thing: Cash

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterSeptember 17, 2014

Jeff Curry/USA Today Sports

The announcement from the Vikings came at about 2 a.m. Gutless Standard Time.

That means it took the team about 14 hours to cave from public pressure. "Cave" is the wrong word. Cower, run, scamper, bolt, run frantically and chickens--t might be better. 

In one moment, the Vikings were saying that Adrian Peterson deserved due process. In the next, he was effectively suspended. I'd have more respect for the team if it stuck by its wrongheaded stance. Instead, the Vikings basically said: We stand by Adrian Peterson and will let due process play out...ah hold on, sponsors are pulling out. OK, bye Adrian.

No, the Vikings were not a profile in courage or aptitude.

Just a short time ago, the Vikings sent general manager Rick Spielman out to the media, a sacrificial lamb in what was one of the worst press conferences of all time. Spielman made Baghdad Bob look like Henry Kissinger. It was a disgrace particularly since Minnesota ownership was simultaneously hiding under its mahogany desk.

Then came the Vikings' statement, released in the wee hours, which sounds like it was written by The Onion. This sentence in particular, if this wasn't such a serious case, would cause bellyaching laughter: "We appreciate and value the input we have received from our fans, our partners and the community."

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Zygi Wilf
Zygi WilfUSA TODAY Sports

The Vikings didn't receive input. They were lectured by a governor, pilloried by fans and abandoned by a major sponsor.

What we saw was something we all already knew, but this situation made it so damn clear. The Vikings—and to some degree, the entire NFL—cares about money over doing the right thing. That's not breaking news, but it's more clear than ever. The images of a toddler's bruised and battered leg were not going to force the Vikings to bench Peterson; the Radisson hotel chain pulling its money did. The Ravens were going to play Ray Rice until the public outcry became so loud they couldn't.

Jim Mone/Associated Press

In football, it's all about the ducats. This makes football the same as any other major corporation in the world.

The Peterson and Rice cases also show how, while the NFL is modern in all of its sleekness and public-relations gizmotology, both teams—and to some degree, the NFL itself—have failed to grasp the environment around them. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the entirety of the social media landscape can shift the sands underneath a corporation's feet with great rapidity.

There was mobilization against the Vikings that coalesced so fast that the team, and the league, seemed totally unprepared for it. The Vikings, unlike the Giants or Patriots, are the mom-and-pop shop of the NFL, and they approached this problem like it was the 1980s. I'm surprised they didn't fax their statement to the media.

By the time Spielman was launched into the coliseum, it was too late. Everyone else could see that but the Vikings. The fact that he was so disastrous only sped up the reaction on social media. Not long after that, Radisson was gone. Nike soon pulled its Peterson jerseys off shelves. Anheuser-Busch took a stance.

Jon Krawczynski @JonKrawczynski

An eye-opening development: Nike stores in Twin Cities have pulled all Adrian Peterson merch from shelves. Nike.

Darren Rovell @darrenrovell

NFL beer sponsor, Anheuser-Busch, issues strong statement http://t.co/HybXHjymDr

The Vikings were like one of those giant dinosaurs. They were hit in the tail, and it took days for the impulses to reach their brain.

The Vikings owners, Zygi and Mark Wilf, weren't exactly brothers with a conscience to begin with. Now we see they are also incompetent.

Just as I tweeted Tuesday night (at a reasonable hour) that NFL team officials were telling me the Vikings would not play Peterson this week, those same officials are telling me now the team is strongly considering cutting him.

"I think there's a good chance Adrian Peterson never plays for the Vikings again," one NFL team official said.

The Vikings are also either in the process of, or will be, attempting to trade Peterson, the official said. But there's no way that will happen. What team would want to trade for him now? Like Rice, he's radioactive. No one will touch him.

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 08:  Greg Hardy #76 of the Carolina Panthers watches from the bench during the fourth quarter of a loss to the Buffalo Bills at Bank of America Stadium on August 8, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Buffalo won 20-18.  (Photo by Gr
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

NFL team officials also tell me that one more domino could fall in all of this. The Panthers, I'm told, after watching what the Vikings did, might consider the same, or a similar type of action with their convicted woman beater, Greg Hardy. To be clear, I'm not saying Hardy will be suspended the way Peterson was, but I do know the Panthers are considering it.

The leadership void right now in the NFL is startling. The league originally suspended Rice for two games, until public pressure and the video changed that. The Panthers played Hardy, then deactivated him and are now considering suspending him, I'm told, all because of public pressure. The Vikings were going to let due process play out, but then sponsors said buh-bye, and the Vikings changed course. Waver, public pressure, act. Rinse, wash, repeat.

Only the San Francisco 49ers have been consistent with their accused woman beater, Ray McDonald, who has played. I guess that's, um, admirable? 

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 11: A Baltimore Ravens fan tapes over his Ray Rice jersey with the words 'Mike Tyson' during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium on September 11, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Imag
Rob Carr/Getty Images

I'm on record saying Rice will never play in the NFL again, and nothing has changed my view of that. Yes, other bad guys have done bad things and returned to football, but there was no video of Mike Vick torturing dogs. There is video of Rice spitting on and punching his then-fiance. That video is an anchor around his neck and will be around the neck of any team that signs him.

The same goes for Peterson. A child was brutalized, and those pictures will follow Peterson wherever he goes. No matter his talent, no matter his speed, he won't outrun them.

Maybe his case goes to a jury (or charges are dismissed) and a jury finds him not guilty. Then maybe Peterson uses that verdict as a shield, as does an NFL team, and signs him. Even then, however, the pictures will remain.

One team union rep told me their concern is there's "almost a mob mentality right now. People want these players lynched."

When asked if "lynched" was the right word to use when speaking about African-American men, the official explained: "This is the modern version of lynching. There's no due process."

The problem with that argument is that in both the Rice and Peterson cases, the video and pictures are more than enough probable cause for a team to act. You don't need a jury trial to see that Rice behaved despicably. The pictures of a four-year-old's cut and bruised leg (as well as a reportedly injured scrotum) are all the testimony you need—if you're an NFL team—to make a decision on Peterson.

What makes the Vikings' bungled handling of the situation so head-shaking was that all they had to do was look toward Baltimore and learn from the Ravens' bungled handling of their case. But the Vikings didn't learn because of one important thing.


We always knew this. Now we know for certain.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.

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