Monday, September 15, 2014

He Does Not Have a Magical Belt or Switch: Adrian Peterson is Not Pootie Tang

I had a nice birthday weekend as my march towards decrepitude continues forward. I watched and enjoyed the great new movie The Drop. I was titillated by the Star Wars burlesque show: I did not know that I could be so attracted to Han Solo or that Obi-wan Kenobi was in fact a petite woman with very enticing small breasts. However, my mid high tier dining experience at Maggiano's was very disappointing. They have really fallen off and are now banished from my culinary go to list.

Perhaps, Maggiano's has embraced the horrible cost cutting practices that are detailed in this report about Olive Garden?

I am a people watcher and listener. If "do you remember when?" and chatting about the weather are the most banal of conversation topics, between both friends and strangers, respectively, then talk about sports between men who are strangers is at least in the same tier of emptiness.

During the last few days I have overheard several conversations on the bus, at parks, in the casino, at the bar, etc. about the recent misdeeds and bad behavior of NFL football players Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.

Ray Rice savagely sucker punched his then fiance and now wife Janay Palmer. She was knocked unconscious. Rice then proceeded to drag her out of an elevator like a bag of manure or hay. Rice has been permanently suspended from the NFL. I have heard too many men defend him from the consequences of his deeds. To their eyes, what Rice did "wasn't right" or "cool"--this phrasing is important because it is far less than a full condemnation--but he should not be banned from football because that is not "fair".

I do not have the sports gene. I enjoy a good football game. I love the theater and athleticism of professional wrestling. But, my manhood and masculinity are not validated by an over-identification with what strangers are doing on a field or in a ring. I doubt that I am alone in this regard.

Of course, the few defenders of Rice were the loudest at the local tap, demanding attention from others. Other men nodded in agreement or muttered almost mute disagreement. The boisterous fool alpha male won out. We are just naked apes; naked apes love to congregate at the local bar on Sundays during football season.

In a moment when there have been too many unarmed and innocent black and brown people killed and left in the street by thug police officers and other vigilantes, it pains me that the black men who are defending Rice cannot, or perhaps are consciously unwilling, to see a connection between Rice's violence against his wife and a culture of violence that assaults the black body, more generally.

Racism and misogyny are intimates. They are not separate phenomena.

What will it take to convince men, black and brown men in particular, to understand that fact?

Ray Rice's vicious assault on his wife is a simple matter. Unprovoked violence, against anyone, of any gender, is wrong. Period. Rice's defenders will make the simple into the complex.

By comparison, Adrian Peterson's beating of his son is in some ways (not all, as Peterson put leaves in his child's mouth and then beat him), a more complicated matter.

Race can and will be read into the Peterson incident because the "black family" is an object of fascination for the White Gaze. Research also suggests that black families are more likely to use corporal punishment and to be more strict in their child-rearing practices. This is likely both a combination of economic class and cultural/racial life experiences (white supremacy adultifies black children, thus the consequences for the latter's misbehavior have historically been far more extreme than those experienced by a white child).

Other defenders of Peterson's beating of his son will say that "whoopings" are a "Southern thing" that "outsiders" just wouldn't understand.

I do not have children. Consequently, I will not speak on the difficulties and frustrations of raising them. However, I was once a child and can speak from that experience. I was a bit of a difficult brat. My mother would tell me to go get a switch from outside and I would come back with a branch to mock her--my strategy, which worked, was to make her laugh. I also washed my own mouth out with soap after calling my mother the worst of names. She was so hurt by what I said that I offered up my own penance.

My father accomplished more with a tough look that communicated his intentions should I continue to act badly. He only hit me once, striking my face with two of his tough calloused fingers. The quick tap felt like a version of Bruce Lee's 2 inch punch. It is wrong to hit a child in the face. But as an adult, I can reflect on my own behavior and admit, that in many ways, I had it coming that day.

I will not hit my children beyond a necessary quick tap on their bottoms or back of the hand when they are very young and are doing something life threatening and/or especially foolish despite my directives not to. This is my personal choice. I would hope that by talking to my children, communicating my disappointment in their behavior, would keep them on the straight and narrow. Parenting in a vacuum of hypotheticals is easy; dealing with real people, people who have their own personalities, whims, and impulses is far more difficult.

Adrian Peterson is a man who has experienced a great amount of violence and misery in his life. He may be numb to violence or the pain that he is causing other people. In my opinion, Petersen needs psychological therapy and parenting classes.

What are your thoughts on these matters? How should Adrian Peterson be dealt with? And what is so wrong with our culture that Ray Rice's violence is excused-away and defended by too many men (and some women)? What are your opinions on spanking and other types of corporal punishment?


Myshkin the Idiot said...

I couldn't say about Adrian Peterson... I don't know what kind of injuries the child had. The article you linked to says his other son was killed by the stepfather? Abuse seems pretty rampant and very accepted in that family.

It sounds like Peterson should get some counseling. So should his son. I am of the opinion that locking people up really does nothing to change their behavior. There are probably less expensive ways the state can change behavior like this, but alas, free labor.

I don't support spankings or anything like that. I really don't see the point. I had some advice long ago that if you choose to spank, that's fine, but make it once or twice and if it isn't working, discontinue. It seems if you're only going to go for it once or twice, why do it at all.

My son is entering the "terrible three's." His two's were fine. Nothing too troublesome, but now he won't stop throwing everything, hitting the dogs, and having tantrums. We're pulling our hair out a little bit.

Why are people making excuses for Ray Rice? Alpha-male fetishizing?

Chammy said...

I do not condone what Ray Rice did or how he behaved afterwards and his less than proper apology to his wife. However, right or wrong, she has forgiven him, they are together and trying to work things out. I do not believe his permanent suspension from the NFL is fair. What purpose does it serve to deny him the ability to make a living because the NFL handled this matter so poorly.

James Estrada-Scaminaci III said...

I cannot address conversations you overheard in bars and other public places. I am not going to defend Ray Rice's behavior, which is indefensible. However, I am going to defend Ray Rice's rights, which he never relinquished.

One, the issue of domestic violence is a complicated issue for the laws of 50 states and thousands of counties to address. But, as a matter of public policy as embedded in those laws, prosecutors endeavor not to jail the man who is accused of domestic violence. As a matter of public policy, prosecutors do not attempt to have the man fired from his job or otherwise deprived of making a living or providing financial support for his family. As a matter of public policy, prosecutors will accept placing a man into counseling programs, keeping the family together, and keeping the family with a source of income.

Two, Ray Rice's case had been adjudicated by a county New Jersey prosecutor who's actions were consistent with public policy across this country. The NJ prosecutor acted consistent with NJ law and consistent with the actions that thousands of prosecutors do every day. The NJ prosecutor chose not to jail Rice. He chose not to cost Rice his job. He chose not to end Rice's career. For whatever reason(s), his fiance stuck with him and married him. Even today, she defends his right to play football. She has a voice in this matter.

Three, Ray Rice received a two-game suspension that many thought was too lenient. The NFL changed its policy to a six-game suspension with a lifetime ban after the second offense. The NFL knew he had knocked out his fiance (now wife) because the police report said so and Ray Rice told them before he was suspended for two games. We now know the NFL had the second videotape of the incident. We do not know who watched it in NFL headquarters or what role the second videotape played in the original penalty.

Four, when the second video surfaced in the media, the NFL and the Ravens went into panic mode. The Ravens fired him. The NFL banned him for life.

In the media, numerous experts on domestic violence have stated that such an extreme penalty--loss of job and career--will cause many women not to report any case of domestic violence.

The NFL's treatment of Ray Rice could inspire corporations and companies to make any allegation of domestic violence a fireable offense. The NFL acted so quickly that the Players Association, the union, could not really react. All issues in the NFL are subject to collective bargaining. I doubt the union would agree that the first offense--which is Ray Rice's first offense--should be punished by a lifetime ban.

None of this is to excuse or defend Ray Rice. The NFL should punish Rice and others accused or convicted of domestic abuse or sexual harassment. The Players Association needs to step up and negotiate these problems in light of public policy. But, we need to consider how Ray Rice was treated and how this could affect many men--of all races--in a job market in which employers use fear to keep wages and benefits depressed.

In the rush to condemn Ray Rice, we are forgetting about his rights, union rights, and suggesting a bad example for public policy.

chauncey devega said...

There is the legal aspect and the business aspect. The NFL is a cartel and an at will employer. If they don't like your behavior and consider you bad for the brand what leeway does a player have?

chauncey devega said...

He made a choice and must live with those consequences. His wife's Stockholm syndrome economic dependence on him is between the two parties. If I was his team I would fire him--bad look, bad PR, hit the bricks.

Why do you think his wife is staying with him? Is it typical NFL/NBA wife accept the hot mess for the check logic?

James Estrada-Scaminaci III said...

Well, the Players Association negotiates over drug policy and other disciplinary issues. The NFL commissioner has authority in the NFL constitution, and, of course, owners have authority. I do not know the specifics, but as we are writing, the Players Association is weighing on Ray Rice. I was pilloried on Facebook for voicing my defense of Ray Rice's legal rights and the damaging public policy that people were advancing because they were revolted by the video. My sense is that people will support all types of violations of rights as long as it satisfies their emotional desire for revenge.

jemand2 said...

Apparently the boy had multiple cuts and bruises all over his back, buttocks, ankles, legs, scrotum, and hands.

I do feel bad about this case, Peterson was incredulous when police asked him if he'd used a cord, saying he knew how badly cords hurt from personal experience and would never inflict that on his child. Also that he regretted that his son didn't cry, as he would then have realized the switch was wrapping around to the front and causing more damage at the time. (

It seems like Peterson was dialing down on parenting that he had learned through his own childhood, but not enough, and dealing with a child who was very proud, independent, strong and who did not want to display weakness or injury.

But what he did was wrong, I hope that he gets parenting classes for sure, whatever else I think needs to be decided by people closer to the case with more details.

I wish we as a culture stopped talking about "spanking" and started being more explicit. There are many parents who believe a quick slap with an open hand on clothed buttocks or perhaps the back of a child's hand is ok. Others believe it is ok to apply several open hand slaps on a child's bare buttocks. Others think it is ok to use an implement, such as hairbrush, or switch, as long as no marks are left. Others, apparently including Peterson, think it is ok to leave visible cuts and bruises, which could last for days, but yet not use the most painful implements, such as a cord.

EVERYBODY calls it spanking!! Thus "spanking" is used for a lot of things that a lot of parents would clearly see as abuse, and even parents who use those methods would be much less likely to use them, I believe, if they knew that all the other parents using the word "spanking" were talking about something completely different, and far more mild. Because it is the same word, they do not even *notice* they are using significantly more force than most, and then don't realize there are other parenting techniques to be used.

I really would rather parents not hit their children at all, however I think it's best to work this way by 1) encouraging non-violent discipline methods (not yelling either, that's probably worse than a quick open hand slap), and 2) being explicit about what exactly, the average parent is envisioning when they say they support "spanking."

jemand2 said...

A player's career could end for any number of things, and is usually very short. Ray Rice had far more of a choice in his actions than the average player who's career is ended, through no fault of their own, through a disabling injury.

They then get other jobs, support their families other ways, etc. etc.

None of that is denied Rice, it's not like he's never going to be allowed to work again a day in his life. And again, what ended his career was FAR more voluntary than what ends most players....

I guess, I just am not very sympathetic. If she hadn't been knocked unconscious, I'd be a lot more sympathetic to the "it's just a first offense" thing.

But holy shit, you do not knock someone so close to you out cold, and stand around like it's no big deal, if it is actually the first time you've ever hit them...

The Player's Association will have it's say soon... Again I just don't really know which rights he has actually lost. Being in a union means you have someone to help take your side, it doesn't mean you definitely will get your way.

The Sanity Inspector said...

I'm using Rice as an object lesson for my own children, who are young athletes: "Think about all that talent he has. Think about all that training and hard work and dreaming that got him from Pop Warner ball to the NFL. Now look! Poof! All gone, because for one second he couldn't control his temper."

Gable1111 said...

That people are excusing Rice -- so he can play football! -- is really an indicator as to how women are viewed in society, i.e. the abuse of women is no big deal. But depriving Rice of playing football is. And its not just men making these excuses; women are doing it too.

I asked this question in a discussion with friends about the Rice and Peterson cases: if Rice is banned forever, why isn't Peterson? Did not Peterson inflict physical and emotional damage on the child? What's up with bragging about putting leaves in the boy's mouth? And what happens if Peterson is found guilty? Should the NFL ban him too?

Now, growing up, me and my siblings were disciplined the same way, e.g. go out side and get me a switch! And skin it! Meaning, strip the leaves off so it can have full effect. I may or may not have had scratches and scrapes from such discipline, but none of us saw it as nothing more than discipline. Back in the day, teachers in elementary school could mete out corporal punishment, and many was the time I found myself standing in front of the class, getting my knuckles rapped by the teacher for something dumb.

Comparing the Peterson and Rice cases: both incidents were criminal offenses. Both incidents involved physical violence. And both incidents caused physical and likely emotional damage to the respective victims. So why wouldn't they be treated the same? Maybe they should.

chauncey devega said...

It was also legal to beat women with a stick as long it wasn't wider than the man's thumb. America and other countries also held people as property.

I left it out of the earlier account, but the guy who was bloviating in defense of Rice certainly didn't notice or care about how the women nearby were disgusted and some looked very hurt.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

you know, he says if he was crying he may have stopped, but sometimes kids don't cry because they're afraid they'll get torn into just for that as well.

Like I said, I didn't know the specifics of the case, sounds pretty horrible.

I agree with you about the many definitions of a "spanking." I don't know why folks hold onto the idea of spanking as a universally understood practice.

In my opinion, spanking and corporal punishment of youth is heavily tied into American culture of slave holding, but also was used to hold the colonists to their status to prevent them from degeneracy by appearing "uncivilized."

Miles_Ellison said...

The fundamental problem with the outcry surrounding the Ray Rice case is that people aren't really outraged about domestic violence. They're in love with outrage.

As for the NFL, Goodell is a joke. He knew EXACTLY what happened in that elevator. Ray Rice was completely honest about it with him and the Ravens. I'm also convinced that he saw the tape and has a lot to answer for (which he won't). The main problem is that Goodell is making it up as he goes along when it comes to discipline.

Courtney H. said...

Great essay, Chauncey! Here are some videos/audios about this very issue. Please give me some feedback:

skilletblonde said...

Puh-leez don't think for a moment that all of that prosing on about Domestic Violence in the media -is out of concern for women and their children? They don't give a flipping damn about the epidemic of violence in this country. If they did, Ray Rice would not be the only famous abuser being discussed.

But the Mainstream Media has yet again encircled the black male with this aberration. They of course had to go back to 1994 to remind us of O. J. Simpson. Never mind actor Jack Nicholson nearly beat a prostitute to death in 1996. They forgot to mention that in 1998 when they deified him with another Academy Award. Please check out the details of the lawsuit against Nicholson on the Smoking Gun? The victim's name is Catherine Sheehan?

Chris Brown is also the go to example when speaking about Domestic Violence. Now they've got the Three Musketeers of Domestic Violence, O J Simpson, Chris Brown, and Ray Rice. They of course fit nicely in the big scary black man trope. This guarantees ratings for that Devil's dung called the Mainstream Media. And please, I am not making excuses for domestic abusers. I've worked the rape and domestic violence hotlines. I don't have an ounce of sympathy for Ray Rice, or anyone who uses violence to solve problems. However, we cannot cherry-pick the abusers.

Lawrence O'Donnell, the political pundit, celebrity loving, Hollywood producer, has been pouncing on the NFL. But has left out his beloved Hollywood. Therefore, I'm going to list some of the famous white celebrities arrested for Domestic Violence. The first one I'm going to list, the media will never bring this case up. Willam Edward Koch, that's right one of the Koch Brothers was charged with domestic violence, death threats, and assault and battery in 2000.

Here's more:

Charlie Sheen
Mel Gibson
Nicholas Cage
Steven Seagal
Sean Penn
Ozzie Osbourne
Tommy Lee
Mickey Rourke
Tom Sizemore
Gary Busey
James Caan
Christian Slater
Vanilla Ice
Vince Neil
Axl Rose
Josh Brolin
Scot Weiland
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin
Edward Furlong
Eric Roberts
Jose Canseco
Jan Michael Vincent
Al Unser

The website where I got these names have a total of 77 celebrities arrested for Domestic Violence. A few of them are women. I've tried to list the most famous ones. However, if you want details of the arrests, I'm sure they are on the Smoking Gun.

Here is link to 77 Celebrities entire list:

RPM said...

I dated a woman years ago whose ex husband hit her several times. She said she started the fight, provoked him and even hit him first. She was 5'3 and while I never met the bastard the photos I saw of him showed that he was not smaller or weaker than her. She stayed with him for largely economic reasons. It's hard to leave an abuser when you have no real options. Once she did become economically independent she left him. She told me that once upon a time he told her that "Men who hit women are scum." Things changed.
When I was in middle school I wrote poem about a stepfather that abuses his family. A boy that I barely knew and thought was a prick confessed to me after I read it that he could relate to me because his father beat his mother. I had to tell him I made it up and it was just a poem. I'll never forget the look on his face when I told him. He never really talked to me again. I always hoped I wasn't the first or last person he told that to. Years later a few mutual aquantences told me they knew about it so maybe he had some support base. I never used his name or identifying clues when talking about him so when they told me his business I said just because I knew didn't mean I had a right to know. I would never out some one like that. If anyone had met my ex, knew her, lived with her or worked with her they'd have never known. That's how prevalent violence is in society. It happens to nearly everyone. It's easy to see why people justify it. They do every day because everyone is tribal. As FDR(I think it was him, not sure) said about some dictator the U.S. was getting in bed with. "He's a son of a bitch but he's our son of a bitch." If someone beats their kids they're a monster. If your parents beat you it's because you had it coming. You were asking for it. Think about those words, not in personal context but a matter of fact one.
My grandfathers beat my parents and their siblings. So they never did it to their kids. And while my brother and sister were very well behaved, when it came to physical discipline, I was certainly asking for it. The only lesson hitting your kids teaches them is that violence is an answer to problems. Society teaches people that shitty message, your family shouldn't reenforce it. My parents and aunts and uncles for the most part hated my Grandfathers. I don't hate my parents but they never beat the crap out of me. And while I wouldn't tolerate that behavior from anyone I know why billions do. I know how most would answer if you asked the question 'how would like it if the violence was done to them.' They would justify it. The world drums it in everyones head that bad things happen to bad people and them alone. Bullshit. But it is how people try to rationalize their abuse. I could go and beat the crap out of my grandfathers for what they did to my family but what would they learn? The same lesson they learned along the way, that you should only fight those weaker than you. No one needs to learn that lesson. Certainty not me. A foot taller than my ex I have never been physically afraid of anyone as an adult, but I remember being little. When I would get in fights the worse punishment would be the guilt I was made to feel. It would shape my decisions to come. Violence would solve nothing. Most violent sociopaths were abused when they were younger. You would find it difficult to find many violent offenders who didn't suffer frequent violence prior to committing it. Violence will never be an answer just a question that will take years for you to answer. Ultimatly I can not live someone's life for them. I cannot tell someone that they can't forgive their attacker just because I wouldn't but I can tell them what I told that ex so many years ago. Don't place any of the blame and shame on yourself but rather on the fucker that committed the act and any of the shitstains that tried to rationalize it.

jemand2 said...

I know intent isn't magic, and some parts of society haven't changed while others have, but the way we as a culture talk about child discipline makes it a lot easier to not even notice that one is being outside the norm of violence-- and generationally those who where beaten badly often want to justify it, make excuses for it, and do the same to their children.

Hitting children still is legal in the US, beating a wife is not. In other countries, such as Sweden, corporal punishment is *also* illegal. I don't think it's wrong to take into account this difference, as I think it is very relevant to whether someone can be taught to do differently in the future.

If Peterson knocked his child unconscious, though, I would think he should be permanently suspended, as well. As it is, I'm not sure.

chauncey devega said...

Damn how they gonna have Yanni on that list. Heart breaks. Next thing you know, Elmo will have been beating folks' behinds.

chauncey devega said...

And that is some honest truth-telling.

This is especially real:

"When I was in middle school I wrote poem about a stepfather that abuses his family. A boy that I barely knew and thought was a prick confessed to me after I read it that he could relate to me because his father beat his mother. I had to tell him I made it up and it was just a poem. I'll never forget the look on his face when I told him. He never really talked to me again. I always hoped I wasn't the first or last person he told that to. Years later a few mutual aquantences told me they knew about it so maybe he had some support base. I never used his name or identifying clues when talking about him so when they told me his business I said just because I knew didn't mean I had a right to know. I would never out some one like that. If anyone had met my ex, knew her, lived with her or worked with her they'd have never known. That's how prevalent violence is in society."

When in high school or other moments of early adulthood did we realize the power of words or how the things we imagined may very well be true for other?

Were we all jerks? Just some of us? What of the victims of bullying and violence whose attackers have no memory of something that shaped that person's life for years to come?

I have shared this before. I teased a young girl in middle school without mercy. In high school she confronted me and told me that she lost all that weight because of how mean I was and now/then she was a model. I had no memory of what I did to her. I couldn't even muster a response. All I could say to myself was "damn she looks good". I hope she is doing great in life--as a model if that was her chosen path--and I wish her the best. I will pour some libations into her sweet challenge of revenge.

Youth is wasted on the young as they say...

Buddy H said...

Thanks for posting that link. I agree with you about the underlying agenda behind the outrage. "Those black brutes!" I don't remember any outcry when Jackson Browne (Mr. Mellow himself) turned out to be a violent spousal abuser.

No excuse for any man who attacks women and children. But the spotlight shines on those it wants to shine on, so as to continue the "dangerous animal (even the "good" ones!)" narrative.

Two of Bing Crosby's four sons committed suicide. He combined physical abuse with emotional torture. Mr. White Christmas got a free pass.

Shady Grady said...

I know that for good or bad money is what comes to people's minds around these sorts of issues but I've seen people in abusive relations at all ends (ok, well not multimillionaires, so MOST ends) of the economic spectrum. Money may play a role but I think it's more complicated that that. Likely there are sides to Ray Rice that we never see but which are quite exciting to Mrs. Rice-emotionally and otherwise. Those are probably why she stays.

Additionally, we don't know (yet) if this was a one time aberration or par for the course. Once people get invested in serious relationships it may take a while before folks are willing to pull the plug.

balitwilight said...

I have some direct personal experience raising children. I believe that it is categorically wrong to hit a child. It doesn't matter what the folksy euphemism is: "spanking", "whooping", etc. Hitting a child is nothing more than a loss of control, a reification of violence and a failure of imagination. There are always alternatives to hitting children. A well-raised child will always respond to cues that fall short of physical violence. I sometimes hear the Emergency "Walking into Traffic!" Excuse. But - by the time a parent has (over months/years of hitting) brutalised/desentisised a child to the degree that a stern "No!" won't stop the child from walking into traffic - that parent has already lost the battle, and is reaping what has been sowed.

As far as Rice, Peterson, I am all for having them face the fulll consequences of what they have done, as long as the same goes for athletes of any genetic phenotype, and as long as the hysteria isn't in part nourished by yet another "Negrofication" of pathologies that actually exist all through American society.

Wild Cat said...

Is he capable of controlling his temper? Since he was a kid, the synapses in his brain have been bashed into fragments day in and day out.

Quite honestly, as awful as these players' acts are, there has been a long conspiracy to downplay the effects of playing football on the human brain.

I went cold turkey with the NFL after the 2012 season, especially after producing a devastating book on the subject. I think the people are getting it, too: I can't dump my PSL at face, I sell my team's tickets at a slower rate than last year and for less money.

DanF said...

The NFL is an entertainment industry. Employers can sack employees for violations of morals clauses or for reasons that damage the league or team's image. Rice's action directly affect his fellow teammates ability to make a living as he makes the entire team less fun to root for - which is the basis for their entire income model.

Buddy H said...

Thank you for these links. It's a lot to digest. I try to have hope for the future, but it's increasingly difficult when I see the ignorance of racism and white supremacy.

Courtney H. said...

Oops! It should read LISTED.

skilletblonde said...

I must admit that with all of Yanni's New Age fluffiness, I was shocked.

Black Sci-Fi said...

Corporate Sponsorship demands more than the Law? Wow. That's hard to get my head around.
It's very confusing when assault and battery, under the law, offers more wiggle room than employers offer. Very confusing. It reminds me of sentencing. A dope dealer gets the same prison sentance as a rapist/murderer. Again, very confusing.
In addition, it's interesting that when BIG money is involved the possibility of false charges is minimized. This is especially true when an aquittal doesn't remove the stench of character destruction.
Again...very confusing. But...I'm open to any ideas that can reduce the amount of violence we do to each other.