With the legal side of his case of physically disciplining his child now finalized in Texas, the resounding message to the Minnesota Vikings superstar running back should be this:
Get on with your life and career.
The apparent intensity and over-the-top, even brutal way in which he whipped his 4-year-old son with a switch—causing bruises in his groin area and other parts of his body—crystalized the difference between a father trying to discipline his child and a coward looking to abuse a kid.
That conveyed, here’s the part that might anger you: Peterson was there for his son instead of playing “ghost daddy,” a role that has plagued the Black community.
He was being a father. He cared enough to discipline his son, even if he was wild and beyond reason in his actions.
One of the ills of the Black community has been the lack of men taking care of their sons or even being there to offer advice, lend support and most of all show that a man cares for him.
Their absence in the kids’ lives leaves mothers to play dual roles, which, God bless them for their strength and will, they cannot fully accomplish.
It takes a man to show a son how to be a man. Peterson will become a better father because of his mistake. He accepted a plea deal and avoided jail time and, once Lord Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner, weighs in, will be able to resume his stellar career at some point.
As well he should. He rightfully has paid a hefty price for his actions. Public perception of Peterson, widely liked by teammates and most anyone who encounters him, was far from favorable, and despite the agreement to pay a fine and do community service and heartfelt apologies, the view of Peterson as a child abuser for some has been irrevocably cast.
He knows it.
“I truly regret this incident,” Peterson said. “I accept full responsibility for my actions. I love my son more than anyone could even know. I’m anxious to continue my relationship with my child.”
In today’s troubled world, where young Black men wear pants so low their underwear is exposed and they have to walk like a duck to keep their jeans from falling to their knees, where many find prison a comfortable place and are surprised that they live into their 20s, a man who cares about his kids is needed.
Baby boomers caught a switch, extension cord, tree branch, belt. . . whatever parents had closest to them in that moment that required discipline. It was an accepted practice to go upside your head in the village that raised children. Your friend’s mother would grab you by the ear if she caught you doing wrong.
That village no longer exists. Don’t think of addressing someone else’s child, much less admonishing him. Parents coddle kids, adorn them with designer clothes, cell phones and pricey video games. In return, many receive calls from the school with concerns about the child’s behavior or lack of progress. And guess what: The parent blames the teacher or administrator. Discipline reveals itself as a tongue-lashing . . . followed by a smile and a hug. Yes, it’s a different day.
Adrian Peterson beat his child, and it was one of those moments many Baby Boomers experienced: “This is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you.”
He went overboard in trying to teach a lesson. A brutal mistake. But his intent was grounded in love and caring. The father was there for the son. Not enough Black men can say the same.
Curtis Bunn is a best-selling novelist and national award-winning sports journalist who has worked at The Washington Times, NY Newsday, The New York Daily News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.