MINNEAPOLIS — After a day of public pressure from angry fans and concerned sponsors, the Minnesota Vikings have reversed course and placed star running back Adrian Peterson on the exempt-commissioner’s permission list, a move that will require him to stay away from the team while he addresses child abuse charges in Texas.
The Vikings made the announcement early Sept. 17, about a day and a half after initially deciding that Peterson could play with the team while the legal process played out. Peterson is charged with a felony for using a wooden switch to spank his 4-year-old son.
The Vikings came under heavy criticism for their initial stance. Several sponsors responded by either suspending their deals with the Vikings or severing ties with Peterson.
“While we were trying to make a balanced decision yesterday, after further reflection we have concluded that this resolution is best for the Vikings and for Adrian,” owners Zygi and Mark Wilf said in a statement.
“We want to be clear: we have a strong stance regarding the protection and welfare of children, and we want to be sure we get this right. At the same time we want to express our support for Adrian and acknowledge his seven-plus years of outstanding commitment to this organization and this community.”
The about face came after a harrowing day that included the Radisson hotel chains suspending its sponsorship with the Vikings, and Papa John’s also considering doing the same.
Castrol Motor Oil, Special Olympics Minnesota and Mylan Inc. all severed ties with Peterson, and Twin Cities Nike stores pulled Peterson’s jerseys from its shelves.
In addition, Anheuser-Busch issued a strongly worded statement that said it was “disappointed and increasingly concerned” with the negative attention brought to the league by Ray Rice’s assault on his wife and Peterson’s treatment of his son.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken were among the many who called for the Vikings to reconsider their position and suspend Peterson while several sports apparel stores started to pull his jerseys and t-shirts from their floors. That included the Nike stores at the Mall of America and in Eagan and Albertville.
Peterson has said he was disciplining his son the same way his own father disciplined him while growing up in Palestine, Texas, and didn’t intend to hurt him.
“This is the best possible outcome given the circumstances,” Peterson’s agent, Ben Dogra, told The Associated Press. “Adrian understands the gravity of the situation and this enables him to take care of his personal situation. We fully support Adrian and he looks forward to watching his teammates and coaches being successful during his absence.”
The Vikings said they had deliberations with the NFL over the previous two days and informed the league they were revisiting the situation. Team executives were at the team’s Winter Park headquarters late into the night on Sept. 16, discussing how to respond to the avalanche of criticism.
“After giving the situation additional thought, we have decided this is the appropriate course of action for the organization and for Adrian,” the Wilfs said in their statement. “We are always focused on trying to make the right decision as an organization.
“We embrace our role — and the responsibilities that go with it — as a leader in the community, as a business partner and as an organization that can build bridges with our fans and positively impact this great region. We appreciate and value the input we have received from our fans, our partners and the community.”
What this means for Peterson’s future with the team remains to be seen. The 29-year-old has been the face of the franchise practically since he was drafted in 2007, one of the most popular and marketable stars in the NFL whose All Day Foundation charity is devoted to helping children.
But the foundation’s website was shuttered on Sept. 16, at one point posting a message that it “will re-engage after Adrian, his family, and staff have reflected on how the current situation impacts the direction for Adrian’s philanthropy.”
Peterson has rushed for 10,190 yards and 86 touchdowns in his career. He won the MVP award in 2012 after rushing for 2,097 yards in his return from a torn ACL.
“We will support Adrian during this legal and personal process, but we firmly believe and realize this is the right decision,” the Wilfs said. “We hope that all of our fans can respect the process that we have gone through to reach this final decision.”
(JON KRAWCZYNSKI, AP Sports Writer)