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Will the Adrian Peterson case actually cost the Vikings?

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
The combination of Adrian Peterson’s “parenting” and the team's decision to re-instate him Monday underscores the character of the Vikings organization and of the NFL.

Even before Adrian Peterson was charged with abusing his 4-year-old child, the team so many Minnesotans love so dearly already was considered by many as one of the more unsavory operations in the National Football League.

Given the state of the NFL, that’s saying a lot. But the Vikings’ reputation is one that’s been earned, the result of a long list of players with a variety of aberrant behaviors. Since the year 2000, 45 Vikings have been arrested for everything from terroristic threats to drunken driving, from domestic assult to assault (with a Lexus). The team’s principal owner, Zygi Wilf, once had his business practices described by a New Jersey judge as “evil.”

And now there’s a charge of child abuse. 

The combination of Adrian Peterson’s “parenting” and the team’s decision to re-instate him Monday underscores the character of the Vikings organization and of the NFL. The question is whether it matters beyond the field. In a place so acutely aware of what the rest of the country thinks of it, at what point do Minnesotans care enough about the team’s behavior to make it cost them: in money, political support and fans?

Too much for Minnesotans to swallow? 

On Monday, the New York Daily News published a cover photo of an un-named Vikings fan, a woman, showing up at the team’s game Sunday wearing a Peterson jersey and holding a stick. Under the photo it read: “Sick fans hail star who beat son with a stick.’’ 

This is not an image that most Minnesotans would want to project about the state’s values, though the woman with a stick isn’t alone in her support for Peterson. Many of Peterson’s own teammates were quick to defend his parenting style, saying they, too, had taken beatings when they were children.

Dave Mona, who is retired from a long career in sports and marketing, doesn’t believe the behavior of either the Vikings or Peterson affects how people look at the region. “Does the Ray Rice situation reflect on Baltimore?” he said, referencing the Baltimore Ravens running back cut by the team after video of him belting his fiance on an elevator was made public.

But Mona is baffled as to why the Vikings decided to re-activate Peterson after suspending him for Sunday’s game against New England. “They’re in a tough situation, but this, combined with Rice, are issues that aren’t going to go away soon,” he said. Every time Peterson touches the ball, football fans will be reminded of what he did. 

Monday's cover of the New York Daily News
New York Daily News
Monday’s cover of the New York Daily News featuring a
Vikings fan holding a switch.

This real-life drama has the potential to play out in many ways, even politics. For months, former Gov. Arne Carlson has been arguing that the huge public investment in the new Vikings stadium should be an issue in this gubernatorial race. The public is putting up a half billion dollars in the project, which has helped raised the value of the team by 22 per cent, according to Forbes magazine. It was Gov. Mark Dayton who pushed against public opinion to get the stadium deal done, and Carlson has argued that Dayton and the legislators who supported him used smoke-and-mirrors financing to make the deal happen. 

But as distasteful as massive public subsidies may be to voters, they’re also complex. Child abuse is gut level. Mix the two together and you have a bitter brew for Minnesotans to swallow.

Carlson, who continues to believe that the Dayton administration’s financial management should be at issue, thinks the Peterson case could raise purple flags on all issues surrounding the Vikings. Substantial numbers of Minnesotans may step into the voting booth with strong anti-Viking sentiments on their minds.

“We get into bed with a guy found guilty of civil racketeering and now we’re supposed to get into bed with a guy who abuses a child?” Carlson said. “But I will say this about Peterson. He should get treatment, like they have for alcoholics. He should get treatment, apologize to all those his behavior has hurt and be forgiven.”

Beyond cynicism, a long-term impact?

Still, the biggest impact of Peterson’s behavior — and the Vikings’ response to it — will be the hardest to measure. It will be the long-term impact on fans who are asked to keep cheering for spending large sums of money on teams and players who are harder and harder to support.

Mary Jo Kane is a kinesiology professor at the University of Minnesota who teaches a sports-in-a-diverse-society course to undergrads. Kane, it should be noted, is a football fan. “I’ve always loved football, in part because it does allow respite from the realities of life,’’ Kane said. 

But the constancy of headlines about the abusive behavior of pro football players is making it harder to see the game as a respite.

In her class Monday, Kane said, she saw the cynicism of young people “writ large.” Kane asked her class of more than 30 students why they believed the Vikings had decided to re-instate Peterson. The entire class, she said, believed the Vikings were quick to put Peterson back in uniform because the team was beaten so badly on Sunday. They also believed that if Peterson was not a star player, the team would have dropped him from the squad quickly. (At a new conference Monday, the Vikings’ general manager, Rick Spielman, denied that Peterson was getting special treatment because he’s a star.) 

“These are students who care deeply about  sports,” Kane said. “These are students who want a career in sports.” 

It’s impossible to know where all this leads. Perhaps the NFL will step in and overrule the Vikings re-instatement. Perhaps Peterson will play Sunday in New Orleans, rush for 200 yards and lead the Vikings to an upset victory over the Saints. “But I would think that the Midwest sensibilities, even of people who consider themselves fans, will be deeply offended,” Kane said.  

Comments (29)

  1. Submitted by David Broden on 09/16/2014 - 11:09 am.

    Minnesota Values are Greater than a Team or a Win!!!

    One of the immediate topics that needs to be addressed is the overall value and purpose of the new stadium given the image which has evolved in the past 18 months regarding pro-football and now the Viking Specifically!. Over the past few day several people have asked me what can we do to have an impact or to shown MN has different prioriites. These disucssions concluded that a Stadium Stop Work Order Should be implemented. the only question that needs to be addressed is what is the cost of stop work for lets say 6 months? This will send message regarding MN priorities. Today the Raddisson and General Mills made statements- others will certainly follow— stop work would be worth the cost.

    Dave Broden

  2. Submitted by Cathy Harrison on 09/16/2014 - 11:15 am.

    I’m done

    I’m won’t be supporting the Vikings or watching any NFL games until the owners and NFL leadership stop giving abusers a free pass. This includes abusers like Michael Vick. Until the NFL proves they value women, children, and defenseless beings, I am done!!! They need to put their money where there supposed “Zero Tolerance” policy is!!!

    If Adrian Peterson was not wealthy and able to afford his bail, he would be in jail!!! He would not be able to play, and should not be allowed to play now. Abuse is abuse whether he was raised that way or not.

  3. Submitted by Barbara Gilbertson on 09/16/2014 - 11:47 am.

    Painful situation

    Me: Lifelong Minnesotan. Charter Vikings season ticket holder until this year. Can no longer afford to support the team I’ve loved/hated/loved since its beginning. As a child, target of my father’s temper and yardstick.

    Adrian Peterson: Victim of child abuse. Doesn’t view it that way. Superb athlete and role model for kids and adults. (I had an AP28 shirt that, interestingly, went missing just before this whole thing erupted.) Apparently a terrible role model for his own children and now the nation. Self-reported (after being outed) that he beat his 4-year-old-son with a stick until the child bled. Says he never meant to hurt him. Says he won’t stop whupping his kids. Cognitive dissonance sets in.

    Vikings via Doug Grow view-finder: A once-admirable team has morphed into something sleazy and slippery, peopled with some savages. Many savages, I suppose. But most of them seem able to control their off-field behavior. Far as we know. Meanwhile, the brothers Wilf apparently continue their allegedly sketchy business practices. (See how careful I am?) We are a sorry lot, it seems.

    Minnesotans: In his measured, non-hysterical way, Doug Grow painted a picture of the Vikings that is deeply disturbing. And the stink of it wraps around all of us and all of them. The good, bad, ugly. We’ve been outed as an exceptionally tainted team in a tainted league. Harder than ever to be a proud Viking or Vikings fan. The unfortunate but niggling questions are, “Who else?” and “What else?” and “How corrupt is our team and the NFL?”

    Finally: Should AP be allowed to play while this horrible drama runs its course? Damned if I know. How unsatisfying is that for a conclusion?!

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/16/2014 - 12:15 pm.


    The NFL is simply too powerful an institution to be affected in anything beyond the short term by these things. In particular, the media is so intertwined with the NFL, and so completely dependent on the league financially, that it is really impossible for any counter balancing force to emerge.

  5. Submitted by Nick Wood on 09/16/2014 - 01:03 pm.

    I’d like to know what Doug Grow’s opinion is on all these issues. He’s been a perceptive observer of the football/Vikings scene for many (many) years.

    It’s too easy for the casual observer to opine that the Vikings should not have received a public subsidy and that individual players ought to be hung out to dry for their acts of personal violence.

    Personally, I never supported public monies for the stadium, and I believe players should be automatically dismissed from the team with a CONVICTION for any act of personal violence.

    But then again, life is not always as simple as I would like it to be.

  6. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/16/2014 - 01:06 pm.

    The Vikings’ leadership does not embrace the values…

    …of the community of Minnesotans. Same for some of its players. It’s that simple. Minnesotans value honesty, the Wilfs value all manner of chicanery, according to that NJ court.

    Ethical considerations do not even appear to register with the Wilfs, except of course in the phoney baloney of their PR messaging.

    The article above asks,

    “Does the Ray Rice situation reflect on Baltimore?”

    Well, let’s take a look at what the Maryland public has handed over to its professional sports operations:

    (Ravens) M&T Bank Stadium $230 million
    Oriole Park at Camden Yards — $215 million

    I would say, YES, it DOES reflect on Baltimore. They have bought and paid for everything this sport brings – people in Maryland pay into this funding every day, for the benefit of private businesses. They SUPPORT it and everything that goes along with it. It is PUBLIC POLICY in Maryland, just like it is here in Minnesota.

    Here in Minnesota, there is now an expressed desire to separate the shameful behavior of the players and owners from the public policy which says, “We’re all going to give money to Zygi Wilf so he can make more, and so he can pay a magnificent salary to those players.”

    We can thank Gov. Dayton, former mayor Rybak, the City Council, and the Legislature – all of whom ignored the extreme opposition to this handout. They also pleaded ignorance, EN MASSE, to the fraud case against the Wilfs, admitting they didn’t do their homework on our behalf.

    The excesses of these parties cannot be separated from our aggregate financial support, which has set them up to make vast profits. We as a taxpaying public may have been put in this position by a failed leadership, but no matter how much we gag at it – we in fact SUPPORT it all with our money, it’s ours to own – it’s our public policy here in Minnesota, just like Baltimore’s.

    Thanks to Doug Grow for speaking with some clarity on these matters, and thanks to Arne Carlson – one of the few wise men left in Minnesota – for speaking his mind.

  7. Submitted by jason myron on 09/16/2014 - 01:48 pm.

    All I know

    is that was one of the most embarrassing press conferences I’ve ever witnessed….and where were the Wilf’s??? Absolute cowards!

  8. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 09/16/2014 - 02:27 pm.

    The long-term health effects, public subsidies, and the non-stop NFL coverage had already made me swear off football; the Rice and Peterson issues just confirmed my decision.

    As to the notion that Peterson got treated no differently because of his star status; please. To paraphrase a comment I read elsewhere– if this was Peter Adrianson on the practice squad, he’d have been cut the second the news broke, and no Vikings exec would be talking about “due process”

  9. Submitted by David Broden on 09/16/2014 - 02:52 pm.

    Should the Vikings be allowed ot play at U of M?

    Perhaps the expression of MN unity on ethic and morality should suggest that the Viking agreement to Play at TCF Stadium is not in U of M’s or Mn best interest? This will get some attention as well as shown MN unity on serious issue.

    Dave Broden

  10. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/16/2014 - 03:25 pm.

    Arent you all happy Gov Dayton decided to make you silent (as in. pay up and be quiet) partners with Zygi & Co.?

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/16/2014 - 04:12 pm.

      Well, he and his cohort certainly are making us pay up…

      …since as taxpayers, we have no choice. We SHOULD have had a choice, but it was taken away.

      But silent ??

      I don’t think so – not for 30 years, anyway. That’s how long we’ll be paying.

      I’m with you and Arne Carlson on this one, Thomas. This is front and center in the election campaign for Governor. Dayton may have some positives to his credit, but this one is so obnoxious, and getting more so every day, there are many who just will not forgive him.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 09/16/2014 - 04:35 pm.

      Weren’t you happy

      when the sponsors of the bill were both Republicans?

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/16/2014 - 04:57 pm.

        Yeah, those sponsors – Lanning and Rosen – what peaches !!

        But you must admit, the Democrats went above and beyond the clarion call of venality to get that stinker passed.

        The unions leaned hard on them (jobs, jobs, jobs, right?), as did the tribes (anything but another gambling venue to compete with them) and the developers (a banquet at the public trough), not to mention the Vikings, who promised who knows what ?

        I respect your views, and I would love to stick the GOP with this one, but it just wouldn’t ring true enough. We can mainly thank the Democrats for this massive sellout of the public interest.

        • Submitted by jason myron on 09/16/2014 - 06:01 pm.

          I DO admit it.

          but the stadium deal was going to happen at some point. Letting the Vikings move (whether or not that would have actually happened) was political suicide, no matter how little you or I care about the team. I’ve said it before, I actual admire Dayton for having the cajones to advance the discussion as it was a political no win situation. He could have punted just like Pawlenty and Ventura did, but the situation was not going to go away. We elect these people to make decisions and sometimes those decisions can be unpopular. At the end of the day, one issue sure isn’t going sway me to vote for Jeff Freaking Johnson instead of reelecting Dayton.

      • Submitted by Marlayna Gehrking on 09/16/2014 - 05:47 pm.

        Blame casts a wide net

        Seems like the best defense is for every member of the electorate who cares about the mess this group has created to take the roll call from the related bills and vote appropriately for your honest incumbent who bucked the system or their opponent, if they didn’t. I wish I was still living in Minnesota to help spearhead the charge to “vote the bums out”, but then I’d have to pay for the dang stadium, and I’m still busy paying for stadiums that were voted down by popular vote, yet pushed through here, in Pittsburgh!

        • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/16/2014 - 07:31 pm.

          Although I was extremely satisfied with his performance overall as Mayor of St. Paul, Norm Coleman lost my vote for Governor due to his support of the Excel center. Aaand we ended up with “The Body”. Sometimes standing on principal has a price.

  11. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 09/16/2014 - 04:07 pm.

    show me the money…

    and I’ll show you what the NFL and the Wilfs and the players, coaches and staff of the Vikings value. They only value looking good or being good role models insofar as it furthers their quests for money and fame. There are exceptions but they are a slim minority. As long as you have “fans” like the woman with the switch and jersey, as long as you have politicians who will approve stadiums against the wishes of the majority of their constituents, as long as the cult of macho violence exists, all our complaints here will mean NOTHING at all. Money is power and words can seldom stand against that power.

    Adrian Peterson: how many kids does he have? How many mothers are there? Maybe beating him when he was a kid made him a successful athlete but it made him an awfully poor father. But they don’t pay him to be a father.

  12. Submitted by Elsa Mack on 09/16/2014 - 04:18 pm.

    Does having fleas reflect poorly on dogs?

    Considering that the Vikings are not owned or managed by Minnesotans, nor are the majority of the players from Minnesota, I’ve never really understood why the team or any one of its members would be seen as representing the state in any way. The team is a business; it so happens this business is a parasite on the state of Minnesota, but it has no real social or cultural ties here, and could suck the funds out of some other state just as happily.

    That the leaders of our state enable the Vikings to continue sucking funds away from legitimate government endeavors certainly reflects poorly on those leaders. I’m a Democrat and won’t vote for Dayton again because of this.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 09/17/2014 - 12:05 am.

      So tell me, Elsa..

      what do you think a Republican governor is going to do for this state…a guy who already said that he’d like to “go all Scot Walker” on Minnesota? I just don’t understand how one issue could sway you from supporting a Democratic incumbent that has served this state well. You would do well to look at the big picture before abandoning the party that is bringing this state back from the brink.

  13. Submitted by Bruce Pomerantz on 09/16/2014 - 04:33 pm.

    Abandonment is also child abuse

    There are many forms of child abuse, especially abandoning children. All the discussions of the physical abuse have neglected to mention that Adrian Peterson fathered a child which he abandoned. That became public knowledge only because that child died from abuse of the mother’s boyfriend. An October 17, 2013, New York Post article stated Adrian Peterson has five children and possibly a total of seven, by women other than his wife. (Search on “Leonard Green,” the reporter, and “Adrian Peterson” to locate the article.) Could all that charitable work on behalf of children be subconscious repentance?

    That said, I regretfully conclude that Adrian Peterson should be permitted to play football. We are a country of laws. An employer meting out punishment before a court of law makes a determination is vigilantism.

    • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 09/17/2014 - 06:27 am.

      subconscious repentance? Please…

      He does “charity” work because his image gets him more money from sponsors. It’s all about the money. And vigilantism? One more time, please. If you or I got our faces in the paper for something like this we’d be out the door at our jobs. What happens in court is protected by laws, what happens at home or the job is a different thing. Would you counsel his wife not to leave him for being a dog and to wait until it was proven in court?

      Side note: the Vikes reversed their decision today after “further reflection” and “wanting to do the right thing”. Of course that had nothing to do with the financial vigilantism of Radisson and threats from other partners. Money rules.

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/17/2014 - 07:03 am.

        “When somebody tells you it’s not about the money,…”

        “…, it’s about the money.”

        – H.L. Mencken

  14. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/16/2014 - 05:43 pm.

    Sorry Folks, but if We Knew the Truth

    It’s very likely we’d discover that football (and other sports) have ALWAYS been like this. It’s just that now, with modern communications, we KNOW about far more of the off-the-field behaviors of our players.

    Twenty years ago we would never have know about the behaviors of Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson that now have us so (rightfully) upset.

    When it comes to abuse of children and spouses, there are no “good old days.”

    It’s only up to us to make better new days, not by destroying those who are very likely victims of abuse themselves, but by helping them find healing,…

    and changing our child rearing practices so that any parent who was abused and feels inclined to repeat the same behaviors with their own children receives the help they need not to do so (and feels safe in seeking that help).

  15. Submitted by Tony Carideo on 09/16/2014 - 06:31 pm.


    Bravo Doug.

    One third of all retired players will suffer from some form of brain injury. 45 Vikings arrested since 2000. Incredible levels of corporate welfare to the NFL; an arrogant, exorbitantly paid Commissioner. Extortionary broadcast contracts (not that we should feel so sorry for CBS/NBC/Fox, etc.).

    Every day they seem more and more like a bunch of thugs. Why, when I think of the NFL, does my mind increasingly nudge them into the same moral quadrant as the NRA and the tobacco industry?

  16. Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 09/16/2014 - 11:17 pm.

    What hypocrisy

    The outrage is outsized to the facts at this time. No trial, no conviction and AP has expressed remorse and confusion as to how treating a child the way he was raised is bad. Governors and politicians use his fame to help pass the stadium. The NFL uses his image in ads, local charities use his appearance to raise money and businesses made a lot of money with his endorsements until now.

    What will happen? Wilfs got their stadium, his salary is a cap issue and he is no longer needed. So he goes home to Texas and plays the rest of his years there. He retires a legend in Texas.

    His name has been sullied by his actions but no one accepts his apologies because we all love to pile on the famous in this state. Particularly when they are black. Remember Kirby? It broke his heart and helped kill him. The press is doing the same thing here.

    How about taking a break here and letting the process roll out, then act. Meanwhile, he is not Jeffery Dahmer, just another jock with poor judgement, nothing more or less.

  17. Submitted by Joel Fischer on 09/17/2014 - 10:13 am.

    NFL doctors on staff:

    Obviously, each NFL team has a bevy of doctors to treat any sort of physical ailment or acute injury. But I wonder if they also have Psychologists, Behavioral Therapists, and Psychiatrists on staff. It seems that in the effort to make sure that their physical bodies are functioning at a high level, they’ve forgotten that the brain also needs to function properly. We do a very poor job in this country of understanding that the brain also may need treatment from time to time…or ongoing.

  18. Submitted by David LaPorte on 09/17/2014 - 01:52 pm.


    In my opinion, Adrian Peterson’s behavior and management’s response to it reflect much more strongly on Minnesota than Ray Rice’s does on Baltimore.

    The Vikings were founded in 1960 as an expansion team. They never played anywhere else. For NFL fans around the country, they think of the Vikings when they think of Minnesota.

    The Ravens used to be the Cleveland Browns until they were moved to Baltimore in 1996. I’m sure that the new Cleveland Browns (established as an expansion team in 1999) are pleased as punch that Ray Rice doesn’t play for them.

    Most NFL teams are closely identified to their home city. The Green Bay Packers are the most extreme example of this. But teams that move have a weaker identification. And, given the right circumstances, are likely to move again.

  19. Submitted by Robert McManus on 09/18/2014 - 09:12 am.

    I’d like to also point out that, despite massive public subsidies for their new stadium and spending over $46 million dollars in cost overruns for luxury features in their (our) new stadium, they couldn’t be bothered to put in glass at the cost of an additional $1.1 million that would reduce bird kills in this monstrosity that sits directly in the Mississippi flyway. I was done with them as soon as I heard that. The Wilfs’ status a crooks is fairly well known, but it doesn’t help. Now this assault on a child. Remind me why I was EVER a fan of this idiotic, violent sport.

  20. Submitted by Joe Musich on 09/18/2014 - 09:25 pm.

    Told ya so !

    So what about those who gave the warnings from the beginning ? There were plenty of whistle blowers out there. The building of the bird killing palace to the wilf evil made everyone of every political persuation and interest group cave. Now Peterson who is not innocent will carry the blame so others can escape responsibility. May corporate football and it’s brutal manipulative packaging come out from behind the curtain as well as the hypercaptialism overflowing with greed be revealed as the unclothed emperor. But most of all I hope will the individual citizen supporter examine their internal need to continue their physical emotional and spiritual involvment in this rigged kabuki opera.

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