Nike Inc., the world’s largest sporting goods maker, suspended its sponsorship agreement with Adrian Peterson, who was barred by the Minnesota Vikings from team activities until legal proceedings in his child-abuse case are resolved.
BP Plc brand Castrol said in a statement last night that is has ended its relationship with the player.
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf saying it was a “mistake” to let their All-Pro running back prepare to play in this week’s game.
The Vikings deactivated Peterson for last week’s National Football League game after he was indicted Sept. 12 on a charge of hitting his 4-year-old son with a branch. Two days ago, the team reinstated Peterson and said it expected him to play in this week’s game against the New Orleans Saints.
The team reversed course Wednesday after pressure from fans, sponsors and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton.
“We made a mistake and needed to get this right,” Wilf said in a televised news conference.
In a statement released early this morning, the Vikings said they decided to revisit Peterson’s situation after conversations with the NFL the past two days. The league then informed the Vikings of their option to put Peterson on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list, which requires him to remain away from practices, games and all other team activities while taking care of his personal situation.
“After giving the situation additional thought, we have decided this is the appropriate course of action for the organization and for Adrian,” Wilf and his brother, Mark, said in the statement.
The NFL Players Association said Peterson, who has a base salary of $11.75 million this season, agreed to the voluntary leave and will continue to be paid while away from the team.
“Adrian wants to continue his work in the NFL and contribute to his team and community,” Peterson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said in a statement. “In order to do so, he is prepared to resolve this matter in the appropriate legal forum rather than the court of public opinion. I have spent my entire career asking people to wait until all the facts are in, and I’m doing so again today. Ultimately, it will be up to a judge and jury to decide this case, which is the way it should be.”
The Carolina Panthers could take a similar approach as the Vikings with Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy, who is appealing a 60-day suspended jail sentence he received in July for assaulting a former girlfriend. The Panthers, who deactivated Hardy 90 minutes before last week’s game, haven’t determined whether Hardy will play this week.
Peterson, a two-time rushing champion and the NFL’s 2012 Most Valuable Player, used a switch, a thin branch or stick used for corporal punishment, to discipline his son. Peterson, who faces up to two years in prison if convicted of the charge, apologized in a statement for hurting his son and said he’s not a child abuser.
Peterson said he was disciplining his son the same way he’d been reprimanded as a child growing up in East Texas. The grand jury in Montgomery County north of Houston determined the discipline wasn’t reasonable given the injuries inflicted on the boy and Peterson was indicted on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child. Peterson’s initial court date is scheduled for Oct. 8, with an arraignment in the Ninth District Court in Montgomery County.
On Sept. 15, a Houston television station reported that Peterson was accused in 2013 of hitting a different 4-year-old son, who has a different mother. Although Peterson’s attorney said that allegation isn’t true, the Radisson hotel chain suspended a sponsorship deal with the team, saying it needed to evaluate the facts and circumstances.
Dayton, the Minnesota governor, issued a statement Tuesday saying that Peterson should have been suspended. Dayton said while Peterson is entitled to due process, he’s a public figure and his actions, as they’ve been described, are an “embarrassment” to the Vikings and state of Minnesota.
“We will support Adrian during this legal and personal process, but we firmly believe and realize this is the right decision,” the Wilfs said in the statement. “We hope that all of our fans can respect the process that we have gone through to reach this final decision.”
Mark Wilf said the team is constantly in communication with its sponsors.
“We value their input,” he said. “Getting things right, that’s what they were concerned with.”
Peterson is the face of a franchise that’s building a $975 million stadium, about $500 million of which is coming from taxpayer funds, set to open for the 2016 season.
The player’s image was on the team’s tickets for last week’s home opener against the New England Patriots, a 30-7 loss in which the Vikings had just 54 yards rushing. Peterson received his weekly pay of almost $700,000 while sitting out.
“We want to be clear: we have a strong stance regarding the protection and welfare of children, and we want to be sure we get this right,” the Vikings’ owners said. “At the same time we want to express our support for Adrian and acknowledge his seven-plus years of outstanding commitment to this organization and this community. Adrian emphasized his desire to avoid further distraction to his teammates and coaches while focusing on his current situation; this resolution accomplishes these objectives as well.”
Peterson’s indictment came five days after fellow running back Ray Rice was released by the Baltimore Ravens and banned indefinitely by the NFL after seven-month-old video emerged of him knocking out his then-fiancee with a punch inside an elevator in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Nike last week terminated an endorsement contract with Rice that went back to 2008.
The NFL Players Association last night filed an appeal of Rice’s indefinite suspension and called for a neutral arbitrator, not NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, to hear the appeal.
In the past week the NFL has hired four female executives, including former White House counselor Cynthia Hogan Wednesday, as it seeks to deal with backlash over its handling of the domestic violence incident involving Rice.
Politicians including U.S. senators Richard Blumenthal and Kirsten Gillibrand have questioned Goodell’s handling of the Rice case, while women’s groups such as the National Organization for Women have called for Goodell’s ouster.
Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, the NFL’s official beer sponsor, said Wednesday it’s disheartened by the organization’s handling of domestic-violence allegations against players. McDonald’s Corp. said in a statement that it had told the league of its concerns and expects it “to take strong and necessary actions to address these issues.”
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