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NFL Suspends Adrian Peterson Without Pay


The National Football League announced today it is suspending Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson for the rest of the season without pay, and maybe longer. Peterson has been on paid leave since September. He was indicted on a felony charge for injuring his 4-year-old son by hitting him with a switch. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault.

Today's announcement follows months of criticism directed at the league, and Commissioner Roger Goodell, for the way they've handled high-profile cases of off-field violence committed by NFL players. And joining me to talk about this is NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Tom, the NFL today released a very strongly worded letter from Commissioner Roger Goodell to Adrian Peterson, and what did it say?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: It said, Melissa, that Roger Goodell won't consider reinstating Adrian Peterson until April 15 of next year at the earliest, and only if Peterson commits himself to counseling and treatment if he properly cares for his children and doesn't break the law or league policy. And if he doesn't live up to those things, he also risks being banned permanently from the NFL. That's what Goodell said in the letter.

Goodell also detailed what he called the aggravating circumstances that led to the suspension, and I'm quoting here - first, the injury was inflicted on a child who was only four years old, who couldn't flee or fight back or seek help from law enforcement. Second, Goodell said, the repetitive use of a switch in this instance is the functional equivalent of a weapon, particularly in the hands of someone with the strength of an accomplished pro athlete. And third, Goodell said, you have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct. When indicted, you acknowledged what you did, but said that you would not eliminate whooping my kids and defended your conduct in numerous published text messages to the child's mom.

BLOCK: Well, the NFL Players Association - the union - has leapt to Adrian Peterson's defense - says it will appeal his suspension. What's their argument?

GOLDMAN: Well, the union says the suspension is another example of the credibility gap that exists between the agreements the NFL may and the actions the league takes. Now, this refers to the agreement the union says that it and the NFL made back in September when Adrian Peterson first went on paid leave, which said that, according to the union, Adrian Peterson would be reinstated with the Minnesota Vikings once his legal case was resolved. As you mentioned, he pleaded no contest earlier this month, which resolved the legal case, but he wasn't reinstated.

So the NFL PA says this constitutes the NFL going back on its word. And, Melissa, one note about this unpaid suspension we're talking about today, it doesn't kick in until the appeal process is complete. Adrian Peterson, according to his agent, intends to appeal, meaning he'll be back on paid leave until the appeal is resolved.

BLOCK: Tom, there has been so much criticism of Roger Goodell in recent months, related both to this case and also to the Ray Rice domestic violence case that first surfaced back in February. How are people interpreting Goodell's actions today?

GOLDMAN: In different ways, I mean, many are interpreting this as Goodell flexing his commissioner muscles - something he's been roundly criticized for not doing in recent months with these explosive cases, like the Ray Rice one that you mentioned. That was the most prominent.

There are those, though, who say the suspension and the union's anger about it shows there's still dysfunction in this whole process of dealing with off-field player issues - when to act, when to suspend, whether or not to suspend - and whether Roger Goodell should be as involved as he is in the process. Now remember, Goodell promised there will be changes to the policy - announced at the Super Bowl in February - changes many hope will make the process of punishing players for violations up more streamlined, more agreeable to all the parties and, perhaps, changes that will reduce the role of the commissioner.

BLOCK: OK, NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on