EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was suspended the rest of the 2014 NFL season on Tuesday by commissioner Roger Goodell for injuring his 4-year-old son with a tree branch.
Peterson had been waiting for a ruling from the NFL, both as it pertained to his stay on the commissioner’s exempt list and any further discipline he could face under the personal conduct policy. Goodell’s action Tuesday superseded the ruling from arbiter Shyam Das, who held a hearing Monday regarding Peterson’s stay on the exempt list.
Instead, Peterson will be suspended for the rest of the season without pay and he won’t be considered for reinstatement until April 15. The NFL Players Association immediately announced plans to appeal the suspension.
"The decision by the NFL to suspend Adrian Peterson is another example of the credibility gap that exists between the agreements they make and the actions they take," the NFLPA said in a statement. "Since Adrian’s legal matter was adjudicated, the NFL has ignored their obligations and attempted to impose a new and arbitrary disciplinary proceeding."
Peterson was paid during his 10-week stay on the exempt list while he dealt with his felony charges of injury to a child in Montgomery County, Texas.
Peterson pleaded no contest on Nov. 4 to misdemeanor reckless assault and was ordered to pay a $4,000 fine and related court costs and serve 80 hours of community service. As part of a plea agreement, Peterson is on a two-year probationary period.
Since having his court case resolved, Peterson had sought reinstatement from the exempt list. But Goodell was weighing further discipline under the league’s personal conduct policy. Following the suspension, the league announced Peterson would stay on the exempt list while the appeal is heard.
The six-game suspension for the rest of the season was part of the personal conduct policy modified on Aug. 28 in light of the incident involving Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was seen on video hitting his wife.
The Vikings have six games remaining in the season after losing at Chicago on Sunday. The team released a statement Tuesday acknowledging the suspension by Goodell.
"We respect the league’s decision and will have no further comment at this time," the statement read.
Goodell’s ruling Tuesday was presented in a lengthy statement from the league, including Goodell’s thoughts on Peterson’s case.
"First, the injury was inflicted on a child who was only four years old," Goodell said in the statement. "The difference in size and strength between you and the child is significant, and your actions clearly caused physical injury to the child. 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."
The league and the NFLPA had gone back and forth following Peterson’s plea agreement two weeks ago. The NFLPA pushed for immediate reinstatement from the exempt list and Peterson’s return to his team.
The NFLPA believes the six-game suspension is unfair and Peterson’s time on the exempt list should be considered as time served.
"The facts are that Adrian has asked for a meeting with Roger Goodell, the discipline imposed is inconsistent and an NFL executive told Adrian that his time on the Commissioner’s list would be considered as time served," the union wrote in its statement. "The NFLPA will appeal this suspension and will demand that a neutral arbitrator oversee the appeal. We call on the NFL Management Council to show our players and our sponsors leadership by committing to collective bargaining so a fair personal conduct policy can be implemented as quickly as possible."
Peterson’s reinstatement to the league would be considered under a counseling and treatment program outlined by the NFL in its Tuesday statement.
"Under this two-step approach, the precise length of the suspension will depend on your actions," the league wrote in the statement. "We are prepared to put in place a program that can help you to succeed, but no program can succeed without your genuine and continuing engagement. 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."