Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge NFL fan. My excitement grows as August sets in – I love the strategy, athleticism and camaraderie of this sport. And like any fan, I get that the hard hits are a part of the game. But the recent exposure of “hard hits” off the field have led me to question the sport and players I have always supported.
Over the past few weeks, the aggressive actions of several National Football League players have been the center of much attention and debate. The latest NFL player to hit the news is the Minnesota Viking’s Adrian Peterson. The indictment alleged that Adrian “recklessly or by criminal negligence cause[d] bodily injury” to his 4-year-old son. Peterson’s attorney has said his client used “a switch to spank his son” and was simply doling out discipline much like “he experienced as a child growing up in East Texas.”
In a statement, Adrian Peterson reported that, “My goal is always to teach my son right from wrong and that’s what I tried to do that day. I accept the fact that people feel very strongly about this issue and what they think about my conduct. Regardless of what others think, however, I love my son very much and I will continue to try to become a better father and person.”
This incident has incited many opposing points of few. At the center of the debate seems to be whether “spanking” is an appropriate form of discipline and whether or not parents have the right to make this decision. This type of debate frustrates me as I think it is clouding the facts. Adrian Peterson is not being accused of doling out physical discipline, he is being charged with causing physical harm to his 4-year-old son. And I believe there is a significant difference!
I do not believe there is only one right way to parent. Parenting is very personal and every parent must decide what is best for their child – which includes the best way to discipline. I also get that for some parents spanking is a viable form of discipline. I know many families that have used spanking for generations and believe that it is right for them. I do not question these beliefs or these rights. I do question how anyone can support the use of a switch, which caused injury to a 4-year-old child.
Adrian Peterson has attempted to rationalize his behaviors by contending that he only did to his son what he endured as a child. And that furthermore he was just trying to teach his child right from wrong. My reaction to this is, seriously? You want us all to believe you didn’t know a better way to teach your 4-year-old child right from wrong. And, most importantly, you didn’t realize you were hurting your son. Again, seriously?
Regardless of how Adrian was raised, he has been exposed to many different experiences and ways of thinking. His position as an NFL player also affords him access to an immense amount of resources. So, at what point should we expect that Adrian would know better than to cause harm to his child?
I hope that the current plight Adrian Peterson and his family are facing causes other parents to take stock of their choices and actions. I also hope Adrian achieves his desire of becoming a better father. But, let’s not cloud the issue. The debate is not about the parental choice to spank, but how we as a culture continue to accept excuses for acts of aggression and violence. And to the NFL players I am pleading – please keep the hard hits on the field.