Peterson child abuse indictment highlights NFL’s violent culture

Peterson child abuse indictment highlights NFL’s violent culture

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TEXAS, September 13, 2014 In the wake of the Ray Rice criminal assault cover up scandal, Texas authorities failed to arrest NFL player Adrian Peterson for child abuse. Peterson was charged today with felony child endangerment charges stemming from an incident that allegedly occurred last summer in which his child returned to his mother with injuries.

“You will be mad at me about his leg.”

“He got about five more pops than normal. He didn’t drop one tear! … He’s tough as nails.”

According to the warrants allegedly obtained by CBS Houston, those were the texts sent by Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s to the mother of his 4-year-old son early last summer explaining the cause of the extensive bruises, welts, lacerations, and open wounds found by doctors on the child’s back, buttocks, ankles, legs and scrotum following a visit to his father’s house in Texas.

Apparently, the 4-year-old was no match for the NFL star, who allegedly stuffed leaves into the boy’s mouth and forced him to pull his pants down to his ankles, then used a tree branch to make a whipping post out of the child’s backside following a scuffle with another child over a video game.

Peterson told the boy’s mother via text that he “felt bad after the fact when I notice the switch was wrapping around hitting I (sic) thigh” and thrashing the boy’s scrotum. “Got him in nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I’m all tearing that butt up when needed!”

Following the assault, Peterson put the injured boy on a plane from Houston back home to his mom in Minnesota, which Peterson said he would not have done had he taken the time to notice the extent of the injuries the child had incurred.

Upon the boy’s return home to Minnesota, his mother took him to a previously scheduled appointment with his pediatrician, who contacted the police with concern’s over the child’s safety in Peterson’s care. The heartbreaking pictures of the child’s injuries released by the Houston Police Department are pretty graphic, and even show the defensive wounds on the boy’s tiny hands.


According to statements Peterson gave authorities prior to indictment, assaults on children are a good thing that he himself endured, and vital to becoming a successful NFL star today. The police report notes that the boy told police that his dad has an entire room in his home dedicated to beating them, and “there are a lot of belts in Daddy’s closet.”

Peterson told authorities that this was not the first time he had assaulted his children, and that he would never  “eliminate whooping my kids … because I know how being spanked has helped me in my life.”

Today Montgomery County, Texas authorities issued a warrant for Peterson’s arrest following a Texas grand jury’s recent decision to indict the NFL star on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child according to a warrant obtained by CBS Houston.

Houston Police Dept. | CBS news
Houston Police Dept. | CBS news

The Vikings also announced today that they have deactivated Peterson from their roster for the game Sunday as a result of the alleged brutal criminal assaults which allegedly took place last summer while the 4-year-old victim was in the player’s care.

“According to the warrants, the authorities have been sitting on medical reports, pictures, victim statements since last summer which show there’s probably a violent offender on the loose targeting children,”  says Patrice Lenowitz of the Children’s Justice Campaign, a New York based nonprofit which focuses on placing child welfare paramount to legal industry profits. Lenowitz says she is most concerned that to date no one has been arrested in this case, yet in the meantime Peterson has custody and access to other children.

“Is this case about public safety or football? Where is the accountability?”


Lenowitz points out that although the alleged incident happened in early summer, the warrant for Peterson’s arrest today comes in the aftermath  of public outraged sparked by another NFL cover up scandal. This week the Baltimore Raven’s decision to release Ray Rice after TMZ released video tapes of the player spitting in his child’s mother’s face and knocking her out cold in an Atlantic City elevator last February. 

According to ESPN, on May 20, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Michael A. Donio approved Rice’s enrollment into a pre-trial intervention program for non-violent offenders who commit victimless crimes (which Rice was presumably not eligible for) then approved an agreement sanctioned by the District Attorney’s office which allowed Rice receive anger management counseling in lieu of actual criminal penalties,  provided that Rice did not get caught assaulting the victim again.

The propriety of the court’s actions and the NFL’s response have sparked widespread debate over who is running the show in America’s criminal courts-the NFL or the judge? The anti-victim response in the Rice case even elicited a response from Vice President Joe Biden on the Today Show:

“Whether it was for the right reason, spontaneous enough or not, they had no choice…Now you can argue they should have done it sooner — they didn’t want it. Whatever the reason is, it’s happening.”

Judges and prosecutors are given a public salary to understand violent criminals and protect the public from them, but the NFL has no such obligation. A PBS Frontline report about the NFL’s “concussion crisis” shows the extent to which the organization has failed to protect its’ own players from head injuries, leading many players to suffer from bouts of debilitating depression, fits of uncontrollable violent rage, even suicide.

Still, Lenowitz says that recent studies prove that the focus of the legal system should be placed first on protecting the innocent children, not on offender rehabilitation and assistance.

“The research is clear that violent offenders are not fit to raise the next generation, and yet the family courts routinely award such predators with custody of their child victims,” explains Lenowitz.

A 2008 study conducted by the Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence estimates that each year, the U.S. family courts order more than 58,000 children to have unsupervised contact with their identified abusers. However, this statistic may vastly underestimate the number of children ordered to live with violent and unfit parents; according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, child abuse is a largely unreported crime that is difficult to prove, and may affect as many as 1 in 4 US children.

“This is a public health crisis” says Lenowitz, who points out that the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study shows that health outcomes for children exposed to certain traumas, including domestic abuse, being sexually abused, or being separated from a primary attachment parent are dire. The CDC estimates the total lifetime economic burden resulting from new cases of fatal and nonfatal child maltreatment in the United States is approximately $124 billion, but there are no studies tracking just how much of this money falls into the hands of family court industry professionals who deliberately cash in by placing children in harm’s way.

The correlation between the amount of money flowing through the football stars’ cases and whether or not the offenders retain unrestricted access to children are factors we should watch as the Rice and Peterson cases unfold.

While the health outcomes for Peterson’s children remain unknown, according to Peterson’s attorney Rusty Hardin, routine violence will remain part of the benched player’s parenting plan:

“Adrian is a loving father who used his judgment as a parent to discipline his son. He used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing up in east Texas. Adrian has never hidden from what happened. He has cooperated fully with authorities and voluntarily testified before the grand jury for several hours. Adrian will address the charges with the same respect and responsiveness he has brought to this inquiry from its beginning. It is important to remember that Adrian never intended to harm his son and deeply regrets the unintentional injury.”

Child abuse experts asking questions whether a formal inquiry into the NFL’s influence over the outcome of their more violent players’ criminal cases is needed to protect the public.


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