Don’t Just Punish Rice and Peterson – Teach Them, Too

by Kolby Solinsky

Editor, White Cover Magazine

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Of course, Adrian Peterson deserves the punishment. Ray Rice? Yeah, duh. And can you imagine if there was a tape of Greg Hardy, or of the hundreds (actually, I’m betting it could be thousands) of professional athletes who have beaten their wives of their children, calling it a “whuppin’” instead of what it is – kicking the ass of someone who’s supposed to trust you, when you’re supposed to love them.

But then again… can you imagine?

Because the NFL clearly has no idea how to handle this stuff. No other sports league would, if faced with it. (And there’s some evidence to that, too.) And we don’t, either.

How else can you explain the public outrage that resulted from seeing the second Ray Rice video when we’d already seen the first?

How pissed off were people when that Duck Dynasty grandpa – Phil Robertson… hey! A former college football quarterback with a self-entitled sense of morality! How FRESH!? – told a GQ reporter that gays don’t belong in the Kingdom of Heaven, whatever the Kingdom of Heaven is? But if they’d watched any of the show in the three or four full seasons aired before Robertson’s comments, they would have seen him routinely talk about “the Almighty” and “our Creator” and about how he didn’t want his grandchildren or children turning into “yuppies” or “sissy boys.” (From Phil, sissy boy often referred to someone who would do someone extremely unmanly, like cooking or laundry. Jeeze, what a prick.)

But what do you think sissy boy really means? Let me tell you… it meant fag.

Why was it funny when Robertson said it the first thousand times, disguising it in code and camouflage (pun intended) while he also railed against modern society, cell phones, and a lack of Jesus at the dinner table? And why were we so shocked when he finally unveiled the uncensored version? Was it because Robertson clearly meant what he was saying to that GQ guy? It wasn’t all for show or following a script, like when Joe Pesci went on his too-Italian rant against “Jew broads” in Goodfellas, or when Robertson and his sons staged their faux redneck’y antics and filmed them for A&E. (Funny how it’s not yuppie when you are the one making the millions, right Phil?)

What Robertson said in that interview – which included his idea that black people had it easy in the 60’s and before (spit out water) – was laughable, if not disgusting, but it wasn’t shocking.

Call it selective outrage. I’d call it convenient outrage or, worse, poser outrage. But what it also ain’t is useful.

Because firing or suspending Phil Robertson – that happened, I think? – does as much to change him and others like him as cutting Adrian Peterson or Ray Rice does to change them… nothing.

To bring the whole homophobic bit back to the NFL and back to the never-ending spit-roast of domestic abuse cases that inspired this so-far wayward column, I’ll bring up a guy who’s had thoughts on all of it – Tony Dungy.

Mr. Dungy was a decent coach with a great quarterback – Peyton Maning – and he rode Manning’s arm and mind to a Super Bowl in 2006 with the Indianapolis Coach. That championship sent Dungy into retirement with a hefty profile and the chance to be a panelist on national Sunday night broadcasts, although he seems to only ever want to talk about his former players or his thoughts on gay marriage and Southern discipline.

“People will say you can’t spank your kids, I don’t agree with that,” Dungy said on the Dan Patrick Show on Monday. “Now, there is a difference between spanking and child abuse and we all know that… there is a cultural thing in the way people are raised.

“I went through it – my Dad cut the switch, and whipped us, okay, and we learned a lesson from it.

“But my Dad didn’t go too far and did it in a loving way, but there’s room for discipline in raising kids.”

So, he whipped you… but he didn’t go too far?

Now, you can’t disagree with what Dungy said from a descriptive standpoint. Maybe he thinks he did learn a lesson, and that sort of discipline certainly was more prevalent in the Mad Men era and before… but that’s not an excuse, and not anymore.

When asked by Patrick if Adrian Peterson went too far, Dungy said “I don’t know” and then took the always courageous route of adding that he needed to see more of what comes out. More of more comes out? The kid had cuts on his body – including his ass and his scrotum – from Peterson’s whipping, and he also had cuts on his hands. Guess why, because he was trying to defend himself.

Oh yeah, and the kid is also four years old.

(Chances are, if Peterson had given his four year old a joint and a beer, the hyper-religious Dungy would have a more defined opinion on that.)

Let’s get away from this incredibly stupid position that something is excusable simply because it’s been done to others. So, beating your kid with a switch – a small stick – was an acceptable form of discipline once. Good to know. BUT, STOP IT!

You know what? There are tons of us who are either parents or have looked after a child, and when they won’t listen or won’t eat their dinner or won’t sit still, none of us ever think to pick up a damn tree branch and beat the sh*t out of them. So – Adrian and Tony – stop insulting us.

So you got hit whipped with a stick when you were a kid, and you may have even had your balls and ass ripped open from it, too. So what?

I bet it hurt – so why are you doing it to your kids now, whether they’re four years old or 14? When someone does something wrong to you – very wrong – you don’t just pay it forward. You promise yourself you’ll never do it to someone else. Or is that too logical?

There’s a reason we watch Django Unchained and say, “Boy, I’m glad it’s not like that anymore.” There’s a reason we saw that film and didn’t start recruiting fighters for Mandigo – because it’s horrible.

Who ever watched Philadelphia and thought Tom Hanks was the problem? ‘Oh look, he’s trying to change my narrow view of the world. What a jerk!’

But Philadelphia may be an important metaphor for me to use, and one I’ve just thought of… because Denzel Washington’s character was actually the most important in that film. You have two halves of society there – you have the just and the unjust. And then you have Washington’s lawyer, a guy sort of floating in between even though he’s admittedly homophobic, but he’s willing to make a buck. He’s almost like the Oskar Schindler of gay rights on cinema – a sort of hero-to-be who only took the case once he realizes he, and other homophobes like him, are the problem. He does have a choice, and he can do something. Denzel realizes that Hanks’ former employers and the stone-age thinkers with the anti-gay signs, they’re the sick ones – not the guy with AIDS.

Washington’s character is important because Washington’s character is all of us. Maybe some of us are more advanced on one issue than we are on others, and maybe some of us need the time to learn, either on our own or with the help of others. Maybe it takes us saying something revolting to see the reaction on the faces of the offended. Maybe then the rest of us – the self-named morally righteous – won’t just push terrible people further into their own prejudices.

You see, the funny thing is, as much as I hate hearing Tony Dungy speak, I don’t want him to stop. Because I really feel that the more often he says the silly things he says, the sooner he’ll hear what he’s saying and see who he’s hurting, and the sooner he’ll soften his tone. Basically, the sooner he’ll progress.

Think about it, really.

Discipline is essential and offenders need to answer for their consequences, but aren’t rehabilitation and evolution both vital steps in education? If Tony Dungy or Charles Barkley or Stephen A. Smith say something stupid about child abuse, sexual orientation, or domestic assault and all they’re treated to is a violent backlash from Twitter followers, a suspension from their networks, or even if they’re terminated, do you really think they’re just going to stop thinking the way they think?

When Phil Robertson was suspended by A&E because he took his thoughts to an unfiltered forum – away from their cameras, where the suddenly reality TV-based network couldn’t edit his quotes anymore – do you think Robertson actually took some time to think about what he said and why he said it? Do you think that old, intellectually extinct, bearded beast said to himself, “You know what? I should be more sensitive to the people I’m casting judgement on. I should probably get out there, go to New York City, dance in a nightclub, shave this ugly sh*t off my face, and learn about the world.”

Of course he didn’t. Because Robertson is beyond help. So he found solace in another one of his massive, echoing church halls, where he could spew vocal venom and pass it off as the word of his Creator. You know suspension gave Phil Robertson? It gave him a book deal for something called UnPHILtered (puke) and an appearance on FOX News, where he can sell his vitriol to millions of others who are looking to bury themselves deeper in America’s backwards-thinking Bayous.

Networks like ESPN – who bravely (lol) fired an employee for an accidentally inappropriate cliche when Jeremy Lin was blowing up – and the Baltimore Ravens – who cut Ray Rice after the second video, when it became clear they’d receive backlash for still hawking his jersey this season – and the NFL – who have thrown the buck from Goodell’s office like a paper airplane out the window – need to accept the responsibility they so obviously crave when it’s profitable for them. They need to not only discipline their employees but they need to teach them, too. Stop taking 20-year-old phenoms from college, a ton of them poor and uneducated, and stop tossing money at them.

As of today, Adrian Peterson has been sidelined by the Vikings, then reinstated by the Vikings, then sidelined again. He has lost his sponsorship deal with Nike. He has taken a voluntary leave today, a full week after the report and a full four months after the actual beating allegedly occurred. (I still have to say allegedly, right? I don’t know how libel works, honestly. It sort of seems like a 0-or-100 thing.)

Now, I’m not saying the Vikings or Nike should now be solely responsible for ridding America of domestic abuse. Because, hey, the rest of us having enough trouble being honest with our friends about their drinking problems – point being, most of us aren’t doing anything to stop domestic abuse or anything else we’re uncomfortable talking about, either. And most of us aren’t going out there and confiscating switches, because most of us – especially up here in Canada – weren’t even sure what a switch was before last weekend.

But what does all that money lost, all that action forfeited, and all the humiliation say to Adrian Peterson?

Does it really make him less of an offender, for now and for the future?

Of course not. Taking away the cookies doesn’t make you crave vegetables.

All you’re telling him is, Don’t get caught.