After Waffling On Peterson, Vikings Finally Get It Right

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It’s one of the darkest weeks a much-loved sports league wants to forget, with the Adrian Peterson child-abuse scandal looming over the NFL as absent commissioner Roger Goodell dodges the legal issues and will not come out of hiding to address the many messes he allowed to diminish the integrity of the NFL. It’s one of the craziest weeks a Vikings organization wants to forget amid a storm of criticism from the media and sponsors, at a time when the league’s image crisis is the worst it has ever been.

The Wilfs, owners of the Minnesota Vikings, looked so skeptical and confused on their decision about whether to suspend Peterson. The public outrage which embarrassed not only the Wilfs but also Minnesota governor Mark Dayton, forced Zygi Wilf and his family to change their minds, coming after a day of public ridicule. A day later, after the pressure of the nation’s leading beer company had dictated the Wilfs’ options, the Vikings realized they botched the Peterson situation. If not for the big-money sponsors, who knows if the Wilfs would have suspended Peterson from all team activities until his child-abuse case had been resolved?

It doesn’t matter if Peterson had been instrumental to the Vikings offense, and wowed people with his speed and all-round athleticism. His admission to police that he beat his 4-year-old son with a switch that caused cuts and bruises left the Wilfs no choice but to pay their star running back to stay away while he’s on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list until the legal system draws a conclusion, and then the Vikings will determine the appropriate course of action. The Vikings quickly moved on it but waffled on Peterson until a beer company and several other sponsors threw a penalty flag.

It is an absolute disgrace that Anheuser-Busch basically penalized the Vikings while Goodell is staying in hiding. It’s about the worst case-scenario for the NFL, a multi-billion-dollar enterprise dealing with domestic violence and child abuse, which is becoming more and more of a problem. The troubling part of it once again is Goodell, unwilling to publicly address the Peterson case, and worst of all, Anheuser-Busch took on a role as the NFL lawmakers, and threatened to withdraw its substantial $1.2 billion in advertising dollars if Peterson wasn’t barred indefinitely from the team. If there was ever a wrong time for Peterson’s child-abuse scandal to surface, this was the time with all that’s going on in the NFL at the moment.

Here’s the awful thing: He was suspended only after sponsors chimed in, and in times like this, they had to know that reinstating Peterson was poorly handled. He finds himself in an unusual and difficult situation, and the impact of the child-abuse case will reverberate throughout the league, with the recent issues of legal troubles plaguing a business with a commissioner who ran from the league’s problems and failed to address the players’ misconduct. From this point on, the Vikings are going to entertain trade offers, or release him, or ask him to renegotiate his contract.

Peterson is 29. He’s nearing the end of the average life span of running backs. There are, believe it or not, a slew of running backs who have had short life expectancies and only succeeded for about six seasons. He’s making about $14 million a year on a contract that runs through the 2017 season. The resolution of the legal proceedings of his child-abuse incident might determine whether the Vikings will get rid of his contract. For one, Peterson’s position is being devalued throughout the NFL. For another, he’s been slowed by injuries, and has shown signs of aging. He’s been paid the money that is guaranteed in his contract, so the Vikings won’t lose out much. If the Vikings release him at the end of the season, they will save almost $50 million. At some point, the Vikings and Peterson will likely part ways, and he’ll be playing in another market.

That’s why the Vikings will entertain offers and shop him. In desperate hope for a flashy running back, the list of teams that makes sense are the Raiders and Cowboys, two NFL franchises with owners who take risk with renegade and big-time players who have been in the middle of controversies. Peterson has shown interest in the Cowboys this summer, calling owner Jerry Jones to lobby for him in the future. Although he’s the backbone of the team, and knowing how much he means to the Vikings offense, they will not want any parts of a player who beats his child. Without him, the Vikings are a below-average team and Matt Cassel turns the ball over. With him in the backfield, it takes much pressure off Cassel, who was impressive in the season-opener against the St. Louis Rams. If we want to understand the Vikings, a conclusion could easily be drawn once they turn to rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and try to develop other young players in a rebuilding year.

The timing is perfect, because if the Vikings were looking for a way to get rid of Peterson, they have a convenient excuse. It’s anyone’s guess Peterson wasn’t part of the future in Minnesota. They look to contend in a few years without Peterson being on their roster. Peterson never had residency for life, not in Minneapolis. It is rare, as we all know, for one player to spend their entire career with one team. The handling of the Peterson situation was baffling, considering that the Vikings are ready to cut ties with him.

But what’s not hard to fathom is that he’s a superstar in Minneapolis, and because he sells tickets, his presence on the field would have filled up the Wilfs’ pockets. Now that makes sense. It’s a business. It’s all about money. It’s not only that the Wilfs’ dubious decision was so horrendous, but also the fact that sponsors had to respond to the Vikings’ mistakes in order for them to finally get it right a second time. This could have easily destroyed their reputation, but more importantly, they finally understand that this is not about football.

It’s an issue bigger than football itself.

The Vikings were going to sell their soul.

Thanks to public opinion, the Wilfs finally got it right.

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