This past week has been full of stories about domestic violence and the NFL. There was the whole Ray Rice video and more recently, the arrest of Adrian Peterson on child abuse charges. My observations, for all they are worth, follow.
So, Ray Rice is seen on video several months ago dragging his unresponsive fiancée by her hair out of an Atlantic City elevator. The powerful hammer of NFL justice comes down on him, suspending him for two games…two. The resulting tsunami of outrage by women’s groups and society at large caused the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell to have second thoughts, issue a mea culpa and pledge much tougher penalties in the future. Then a video leaks this week showing what happened inside the elevator, Ray Rice knocking the woman out with a vicious left hook. The graphic video, played over and over on ESPN prompts the NFL to suspend Mr. Rice “indefinitely.” Soon, the discussion became, “What did the NFL know and when did they know it?” Now, Goodell's job is in jeopardy. Lost in all of this public relations nightmare is an answer to my simple question…why isn’t Ray Rice in jail? It was my understanding that assault and battery is a crime punishable by serious jail time. Apparently there is a different justice system for professional athletes.
Now comes word that Adrian Peterson has been indicted for administering a “whooping” to his four year old son with a switch. The alleged punishment left the child with cuts and bruises on his legs, backside, and scrotum. Peterson has been fully cooperative with the police, seemingly unaware that he did anything wrong. Reaction to this incident has been all over the map from, “I got whippings when I was a kid, what’s the big deal ?” to “Adrian Peterson is a child molesting cave man who should be thrown under the jail.”
OK, yes, I received several “whippings” when I was an out of control knuckleheaded kid, and yes…on many occasions my Dad used tree branches to administer his justice. Although, I must say that back then Dad made me go to the woods and pick out the branch for him! Unlike Mr. Peterson, Dad never made me drop my pants and never struck me more than three times. Believe me…three was enough. Such punishments were rare for me, reserved for particularly grievous rebellions on my part. As such, they all stand out in my memory, which I suppose was the intent. I never doubted my Dad’s love for me, I always knew that he wanted the best for me, and each time I got a whipping, Dad would make his way to my room before I fell asleep to hug me and tell me he loved me.
When I became a parent, I did things differently than my Dad. Having two completely different kids forced Pam and I to devise different forms of discipline for each of them. Still, on very rare occasions we agreed that some form of corporal punishment was in order, always administered with our hands…no sticks.
I say all of this not to defend anything. It just is what it is…many people my age grew up with spankings and many of us turned out to be pretty decent people with a workable understanding of the difference between right and wrong, in no small part because of our parent’s example.
In Mr. Patterson’s case, he seems to be frankly, obsessed with corporal punishment. He has a “whoopin room” in his house, a collection of belts dedicated to the practice. In the incident in question, the man stuffed the leaves from the branch into his son’s mouth. In other words, Peterson is an unhinged idiot. The image of a 240 pound world class athlete flailing away at a four year old child conjures up all sorts of horrible emotions.
Generally speaking, I’m all for the State butting out of our business. The nanny state interfering at our every turn as parents is infuriating. Still, the State has an obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us. I would say a four year old qualifies.A very bad week for the National Football League, and an even worse week for men.