It’s just dripping with the kind of dysfunction that has made the NFL increasingly difficult to watch for those of us with a conscience.
In a move that shouldn’t surprise a single follower of the NFL and its off-field issues, Adrian Peterson, a man who beat his child bloody with a switch and only reluctantly admitted any wrong-doing, has met with multiple NFL teams before Colin Kaepernick, a man who knelt during the national anthem to peacefully protest unfair treatment of African Americans by police, who hasn’t received so much as a phone call.
What this says to me is that the NFL has added child endangerment to its growing menu of forgivable offenses along with domestic violence, sexual assault, drug use, DUIs and animal cruelty. So far not included on that list? Kneeling during the national anthem.
I’m not even saying someone like Peterson doesn’t deserve a second chance. I do think people can learn from their mistakes and grow. After the incident, Peterson initially chose justification over regret, saying through his lawyer that he used “the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing up in East Texas.” Only later did he come out and apologize, saying he learned a lot about how he would discipline his son moving forward. And if his behavior continues to reflect this, I see no reason why he shouldn’t be given a second chance.
That brings us back to Kaepernick. To be clear, I don’t think he did anything wrong. But let’s say for the sake of argument that he did in the eyes of those who criticized him. What would it take for his critics to forgive him the same way they’ve forgiven a child abuser? Would it be by donating one million dollars plus proceeds of his jersey sales to organizations in oppressed communities? Would it be by saying that he would stand for the anthem this season? Because he has done both of those things. And so far, NFL teams haven’t been all that forgiving.
The problem is, what Kaepernick did is not something to repent for. And more importantly, what Kaepernick did and continues to do isn’t hurting anybody. In fact, its helping people both financially and by raising awareness.
Peterson, 31, is entering his 11th NFL season, playing a position that exponentially drops in value given his age, injury history and career usage. Kaepernick, 29, is entering his 7th season, coming off 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions in 2016 after starting the year as number two on the depth chart. Both players should be able to make positive impacts on an NFL roster. But only one of them appears to be getting that opportunity.
Now, we don’t know for sure that Peterson will wind up on a roster this fall. And we don’t really know what Kaepernick wants. He hasn’t publicly said how much money he is looking for, what kind of role he wants or what kind of team he hopes to play for. So there are some factors that would provide more nuance to this situation. All we have to go on is what we see happening in front of us. There are two capable players on the market with some combination of ability and off-field baggage. Only one of them has been reached out to.
The message being sent by the NFL is that they are willing to forgive players who hit their wives or children, abuse drugs or drive while intoxicated, but not one who publicly demonstrates his right to protest. The same fans that would boo Kaepernick would most likely cheer for Peterson, a double standard that troubles me beyond the confines of the NFL arena.