Did the Viking Running Back Benefit From a Harsh Upbringing?
The Minnesota Vikings reinstated their star running back (and then dumped him again after pressure from their sponsors), and that only stepped up the vilification of the NFL and its many crimes. From ignoring long term cognitive disabilities to refusing to eliminate suddenly offensive team names, it’s hard to love this $10 billion sports juggernaut at the present time. Except perhaps at game time.
While it is tempting to toss the Peterson case into the same hopper as the Ray Rice domestic abuse drama, a little reflection suggests that the issues are not only fundamentally different, they may be even less clear cut and even more complex. And yet the fact that they are being played out in what amounts to a celebrity media arena presents the opportunity to have a more meaningful discussion, if we choose to take it. Even if it’s almost impossible to prevent our lives from being impinged by the actions of the celebrated, we can try to examine the stories honestly and thoroughly, as painful as that may be. In the Peterson case, it’s painful.
It isn’t possible to discuss Adrian Peterson’s discipline of his child without straying into areas that bring out strong emotions in most people. Child abuse is in a different league than domestic violence, because a child has even less choice whether to remain in an abusive environment. And while the visual evidence suggests that the level of Peterson’s punishment [of his son] exceeded what most people would consider acceptable, there are related factors that make a deeper conversation worth having.
The most vexing challenge would seem to be distinguishing between child abuse and a strict child rearing philosophy. That requires taking Peterson’s intent into consideration. We can’t ultimately know what his motives were, but there is evidence available which allows for reasonable speculation. Peterson has described a childhood that included physical punishment from the more violent end of the tough love parenting philosophy. Nevertheless, he attributes his success as an athlete to some degree to his strict upbringing. He is not the only athlete (or other notable person) to credit tough parenting for his success. How many kids who escaped the gangs of their neighborhood believe they did so because of one or more parents who believed in corporal punishment to some degree? Continue reading