NY Post columnist raises hard questions about AP's decision to play


No one could really tell Adrian Peterson what to do or say in the bizarre 48-hour news cycle that revealed a baby he had fathered had been killed in South Dakota, but the announcement from the man himself that he would play on Sunday anyway mostly drew somewhat encouraging support.

"There is no correct choice for Peterson to make, only the choice that allows him to grieve as he sees fit," offered the Star Tribune's Jim Souhan before the game. "If he decides to play, he will be honoring his son the best way he knows how."

But at least one sports writer, in the middle of such a outpouring for a man in the middle of a life crisis that played out on social media, raises more questions that aren't answered easily.

Phil Mushnick of the New York Post pulls no punches on what AP's insistence on playing means to him: "It's sickening."

"Of course, we all have to operate from our own set of values, our personal sense of right from wrong," Muschnick opines. "Perhaps, given current standards among NFL players — mostly college men, no less — Peterson qualifies as a man of good character."

But Mushnick isn't buying it, necessarily, citing a Peterson past that includes a speeding ticket for going 109 mph and that incident last summer when Peterson was arrested for lingering in a bar too long. (Those charges were dropped.)

But through the tongue-clicking and pursed lips of sanctimony, Mushnick does raise some interesting questions. And Mushnick raises a point that some have feared too delicate to mention, let alone attack.

"The suspect in the beating murder of Peterson’s 2-year-old is the boyfriend of Peterson’s 'baby mama' — now the casual, flippant, detestable and common buzz-phrase for absentee, wham-bam fatherhood," Mushnick writes.

"With his resources, how could Peterson, the NFL’s MVP, have allowed his son to remain in such an environment? Did he not know, or not care? Or not care to know? Or not know to care? Peterson couldn’t have provided his son a better life, a longer life?"

On the flip side, many news outlets, including this one, were eager to get quotes from Peterson after the game about his dead child, and mostly Peterson, understandably perhaps, just wanted to stick to football.

"I was set on it," he said to ESPN's Josina Anderson. "I just look at things and I don't ask people to understand my mindset and how I think."

And who can blame him? Paul McCartney infamously went back to the recording studio the day after John Lennon was shot, a decision McCartney still defends on rare occasions.

But Muschnick is right in that there has been a very delicate treatment of the Peterson situation, right down to the numerous stories that insist on saying that a 2-year-old child who was apparently beaten to death "passed away."

That kind of hedging shows that Mushnick and the Post might be in a minority of outlets that want to get at some of the darker questions lingering about Peterson's situation.

Or maybe the regular sports media don't even know how to address the ugliness of the case.

"A week in which the scourge and blight of child abuse and domestic violence reared its ugly head in the National Football League world involving, of all creatures, a two-year-old boy," intoned one NFL Network host in a head-scratcher.

Many stories, like this one from the Bleacher Report, took a "sure you want to do this" angle on Peterson's decision to play, but that's pretty much where the debate began and ended.

Others took the time to let Peterson reflect on what undoubtedly has been a hard-knock life, especially after he tweeted to Fox Sports reporter Laura Okim his decision to continue on in the NFL combine in 2007 after his brother died.

Even the CBS affiliate on Peterson's home turf in Tyler, Texas, took a somewhat awestruck tone that its famous son would continue to play on, something that may remain a mystery to outside observers.

Mushnick himself is struggling with it too when he writes, "Me? I’d be fighting for breath, my knees weak with grief, demanding to know why, who, how. Then, I suspect, I’d seethe with rage, swearing retribution. I even think I’d take off a day or two from work. Maybe a week."

Next Up