Governor attempts to explain Vikings’ arrests

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton was a driving force behind the bill to build a new Minnesota Vikings stadium. Now, he’s trying to defend the Vikings and offer his own thoughts on why arrests have become so prevalent with NFL players.

Speaking on Minnesota Public Radio on Tuesday, Dayton was asked about a weekend St. Paul Pioneer Press report detailing the string of off-field incidents involving Minnesota players and the fact the Vikings brought in a former strip club owner to warn the players of the dangers in being at clubs near closing time.

Dayton said the issues probably come with being a professional athlete.

“Shake one of their hands and you know that this is somebody who is not your ordinary citizen,” he said. “They’re heavily armored and heavily psyched to do what they have to do and go out there and, you know, what’s basically, slightly civilized war. And then they take that into society. Much as soldiers come back, they’ve been in combat or the edge of it, and suddenly that adjustment back to civilian life is a real challenge. That’s just, again, part of the reality. That’s not to say it’s good and it shouldn’t be improved. It should. And commissioner (Roger) Goodell, in my view, has been really trying to deal with that.”

Goodell has been known to wield a heavy hand in disciplining players, but the Vikings have avoided punishment from the league despite leading the NFL with 10 reported arrests since the beginning of 2011.

Dayton said he agreed with the Pioneer Press headline, “Vikings many arrests are troublesome,” and added that the time off during the offseason adds to the potential for trouble to surface.

“Idle time is the devil’s play,” Dayton said, later adding: “It means that young males who are heavily armored and heavily psyched as necessary to carry out their job are probably more susceptible to being at bars at 2 o’clock in the morning, or have problems or DUIs. It doesn’t excuse it. It just says that it probably comes with it.”

Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson was the most recent Vikings player to be arrested when he was charged with resisting arrest in his offseason hometown of Houston. He allegedly got into a confrontation with police officers, including two who were off-duty and working security at a nightclub, when the club was closing. Peterson has hired high-profile attorney Rusty Hardin, hoping to clear his name. Leaving his initial hearing last Friday, Peterson claimed himself to be “200 percent” innocent.

“Adrian Peterson, who I’ve met several times, I think has really proven to be an outstanding citizen and a really fine role model claims that he did not, was not responsible for that altercation,” Dayton said. “And I asked my own security people, and they said it varies from one state to another, but if a police officer is off-duty in plain clothes so somebody assumes he’s just a bouncer … Does that person have the authority to be expected to be treated like a police officer? Exactly where do you draw that line there? It’s not black and white. It’s shades of gray.”

Dayton seemed to appreciate Minnesota’s efforts in bringing in the former strip club owner to talk to the team’s players, as first reported in the Pioneer Press article.

“Almost a shock therapy approach, where somebody comes in who’s one of this ilk and lays it on the line and says, ‘You know, we’re just trying to exploit you. We’re not your pals. If we comp you on drinks, or customers, we have an ulterior motive. We want to rip you off for everything we can,’ ” Dayton said. “That’s my take on it. But it’s a problem when it occurs because athletes are role models, and kids look up to them and they need to follow the laws like everyone else. It’s unfortunate in our society, generally speaking, and maybe its part because of publicity, but athletes aren’t treated like everyone else.

“I think they should be held as accountable to follow the laws of our society as anyone else and the consequences should be the same. I wish there could be instilled that badge of honor so that they would hold themselves to higher standard or the league could. And obviously, they’re falling considerably short of that now. Again, you’re talking about a population of people who are young adult males, who if you look at the general population, you’re going to see a larger number of the kinds of incidents that occur with football players. And that’s not to excuse it.”

The incidents, especially at this time of year with a month free between June minicamp and the late July start of training camps, are not limited to just Minnesota. In the past week, Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch was arrested for a DUI, Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant was arrested for domestic violence and Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault with a firearm.

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