This past Sunday, Adrian Peterson, the superstar running back for the Minnesota Vikings, made headlines off the field for the wrong reasons. Submitting to police at his home in Montgomery County, Texas, the all-pro performer stands accused of child abuse after disciplining his son with a switch.
Having been indicted for one count of reckless or negligent injury to a child late last week, Peterson is scheduled to head to court in early October. The incident itself revolves around his use of a switch to discipline his young son, but has renewed the debate on corporal punishment, specifically the line between where discipline ends and abuse begins.
Growing up in Texas himself, Peterson was no stranger to the switch as a child. Supporters of the running back have pointed to his early familiarity with corporal punishment and spankings to explain that this method is all Peterson knows, and that, while he may have gotten carried away, he just meant well; the point was to teach a lesson.
Multiple fans, friends and sources have taken to Peterson’s defense. From the Detroit Free Press to a childhood friend, those near and far from Peterson have pointed out that he both loves his son and turned out alright himself after growing up in the same environment.
David Cummings, a life-long friend of Peterson’s, recounted a time after practice when Peterson’s father arrived, removed his belt and whipped the young high school student in front of twenty of his friends for some undisclosed wrong the high school athlete had committed.
Pointing out that “his dad was real tough,” Cummings seemed to pass the blame onto Peterson’s father as a sort of learned method of discipline.
Social media has presented both sides of the controversy, with the hashtag “Adrian Peterson” featuring comments ranging from supportive fans to critics and outraged parents.
On the other side, photos have circulated Twitter showing the extent of the bruising and bleeding that Peterson’s son experienced following the beating, which does not reflect well on the Vikings star.
Peterson’s recent reinstatement has sparked serious outrage from many, including the Governor of Minnesota Mark Dayton, a huge fan of the Vikings, who called for serious action to remove Peterson from the team until a real, meaningful resolution is reached.
Critics question what exactly the lesson to be learned is after a parent beats a child with a stick to the point of producing serious bruising and bleeding.
Specifically, Mel Robbins, a CNN commentator, legal analyst and talk show host, pointed out that, “the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child.”
Suggesting that the root of the discipline-abuse problem lies in the fact that parents can almost indiscriminately put their hands on a child. Whether or not you agree with Robbins, her position does bring up an interesting question: if Peterson endured similar abuse as a child, then wouldn’t he know firsthand how cruel and brutal whippings can be?
As a response, Peterson issued a statement, stating, “I have always believed that the way my parents disciplined me has a great deal to do with the success I have enjoyed as a man.”
Some decided to use the beating as an opportunity to critique society, which focuses less on Peterson in particular and chooses to view the event as a microcosm for an archaic way of teaching children right from wrong.
Regardless of the ultimate verdict, the incident itself brings about interesting questions, such as whether or not Peterson is a victim or a villain, if certain child raising techniques are outdated and if a spanking is – even if it is deserved – morally right?
While the whipping of a four-year old-boy is certainly not a good thing, the dialogue that it has sparked could very well be positive.