Now we all have to wait and see how the NFL responds — Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson pled no contest to an abuse misdemeanor charge Tuesday, meaning he'll avoid anything like the dire legal consequences many thought he would face, after a Texas grand jury indicted him for felony child abuse back in September. Of particular note is that the plea makes no mention of familial or child abuse, instead classifying the crime as reckless assault. In other words, Adrian Peterson's serious legal troubles are pretty much over.
Indeed, in comparison to the furor that the indictment whipped up around Peterson, and the national conversation it sparked regarding child abuse, he's getting off a lot easier than you might expect. Peterson will not serve any jail time, but will instead be placed on probation, must undertake 80 hours of community service, and must pay a $4,000 fine. Of course, that fine might pack a little more punch if Peterson weren't one of the NFL's biggest megastars — he's already earned over $70 million dollars in his eight-year career.
There's no guarantee just yet that Peterson will be suiting up again for the Minnesota Vikings, however, or precisely what the NFL's response to the plea agreement will be. Which is noteworthy, since it seems like they're the only potential source of any meaningful punishment or consequence that's still in play.
The charges leveled against Peterson were, and remain, grisly in the extreme. He was indicted on allegations he'd whipped his four-year-old son with switches, leaving bruising, cuts and lashes across his legs. In one text message to his son's mother, he recounted striking the young boy in his testicles.
Got him in nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I’m all tearing that butt up when needed! I start putting them in timeout. N save the whooping for needed memories!
Make no mistake, the grotesqueness of it all (which some of his fans have defended as "discipline," the same argument Peterson has used) could be looming large in the minds of NFL higher-ups, embattled commissioner Roger Goodell in particular. In the aftermath of the league's disastrous handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence incident, in which a man who punched his fiancé unconscious into a metal rail was initially suspended for 14 games less than a guy who got busted smoking weed, there's nothing they need less than a walking, talking child abuse scandal on the field. I wish I could say they also have moral considerations, but given recent events, that feels a touch naive.
The NFL Players Association (NFLPA), however, may be expecting a reasonably comfortable return for the Vikings star. According to ESPN's Ed Werder, union sources are anticipating that Peterson will be fully reinstated, perhaps along with a stiff fine. But of course, a stiff fine to Adrian Peterson is barely a slap on the wrists in real terms — even were his entire $11.5 million salary for the year to be seized, he'd still be a multimillionaire many times over.
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