By McKenzie Whiteman
Even people who aren’t avid football followers know of the controversy regarding its supposedly “criminal” players. Many of the NFL’s athletes have found themselves in the middle of legal battles, fighting to keep their contracts and reputations. Few, however, are viewed as receiving fair punishment in the eyes of the general public. NFL players, much like any professional athlete, seem to find themselves receiving a slap on the wrist instead of any harsh punishment. Adrian Peterson, however, found yet another blow to his career.
Peterson served as the running back for the Minnesota Vikings since 2007. However, this past year has caused his career to come to a halt. Peterson faced felony charges for child abuse after witnesses say he struck his 4 year-old son with a tree branch. He rejected accusations to a felony charge, but pleaded no contest to reckless assault, a misdemeanor charge, on Tuesday. While the fate of his career is still in debate, Peterson has already lost a major part of his image, and this can partially be attributed to the close eye the media currently has on him.
According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, Nike has recently resigned its contract it held with Peterson. Peterson had rejoined its contract with Nike in 2013, only to be suspended in September. While there are no final comments as to why, one can assume that the legal battle and limited positive exposure he’s recently had may be to blame. While his actions are completely at fault, the media can cause a story to go viral. I’m sure this is what Nike fears the most, and why they ultimately decided to end their partnership with Peterson.
Because Adrian Peterson is the high-profile athlete that he is, any detail of this story is immediately spread. Any result of a legal battle, any opinion that is stated, and any rumor that stirs, is quickly picked up by the media and made available to the public. Because Nike is so reliant on high-profile athletes to market its brand, any threat to the company’s reputation is quickly and aggressively handled. This is exactly what happened in regards to Peterson’s future with the company. Speculation of child abuse already threatened his future with the organization. But after pleading no contest to reckless assault on Tuesday, I’m sure Nike felt as its high-profile reputation didn’t include his persona any longer.
While it’s becoming more and more often that professional athletes are finding themselves in legal troubles, it’s the media that will hurt them in the end. Whether what they report is true or false it affects how the general public views them as ambassadors to their team and sponsors. Companies involved don’t want to be dragged through the self-inflicted troubles that their athletes are going through. The fate of Peterson’s career will be based on how much the NFL and other involved parties are willing to endure the media hits and persona that come along with his charges. Hopefully other athletes take these incidences into consideration before they find themselves in the same predicament.