Over the weekend, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson further damaged the league’s already tarnished reputation. Peterson was indicted by a grand jury on felony charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child, that child is his four year old son. While the Vikings acted swiftly, deactivating Peterson from their week two home opener against the New England Patriots, they then decided to reactivate him Monday, making him eligible to play in their week three matchup in New Orleans. Shortly after reactivation, Peterson was accused of child abuse in a separate case stemming from a June 2013 incident. The team then deactivated Peterson again Wednesday morning, but the move may have come a little late as they lost the trust of many stakeholders, including Radisson Hotels who suspended their sponsorship with the team indefinitely.
From a crisis leadership perspective, it is mind-blowing the Minnesota Vikings would reinstate Peterson in the first place, even prior to the second incident being reported. With the overflow of photos, text messages and other reports of the alleged beating, and countless comments of scrutiny toward the organization and Peterson as an individual, it only makes sense the organization keep the all-pro running back deactivated until the conclusion of this investigation. They, however, chose to do the opposite.
The fallout of how the NFL handled Ray Rice knocking his fiancée unconscious in an Atlantic City hotel elevator, as well as Panthers’ defensive end Greg Hardy’s domestic violence conviction this past summer, has Commissioner Roger Goodell and all league officials under heavy fire. Now, the public wants to know when the league will hold Peterson accountable. Will the commissioner act strongly in the midst of the amount of serious violent crimes being committed league wide? Or, will the NFL continue to imitate former Penn State leadership by looking the other way for the sake of a game and the economics surrounding it? Trust is at issue.
From a legal standpoint, this is the darkest two week period the NFL has ever seen. Punishments need to be handed down swiftly and harshly, if not by the league then by the teams these players represent. Clearly there is a legal process, but that doesn’t mean these athletes should be allowed back on an NFL field in the interim. Crisis costs time, money, customers, and careers. And recently, the Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, and the entire NFL has stood on the sidelines and watched all four components erode. Again, trust is at stake.
For more information regarding crisis leadership, do not hesitate to contact the Fallston Group at 410.420.2001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.