Bowing to the intense public outcry and potential loss of advertising revenue after the reinstatement of running back Adrian Peterson to the Vikings' roster on Monday, the team did an abrupt about-face early Wednesdaymorning and placed Peterson on indefinite paid leave.
The Vikings said Peterson would be away from the team while the legal process plays out in the wake of Friday's indictment in Texas on a felony charge of injury to a child for hitting his 4-year-old son with a small tree branch as a method of discipline.
"We made a mistake, and we need to get this right," Vikings co-owner Zygi Wilf said at a news conference at the team's practice facility in Minneapolis.
Peterson was placed on the "exempt-commissioner's permission list," a rarely used designation available to teams "only in unusual circumstances," according to the NFL player personnel policy manual. The Vikings said it was their suggestion to place Peterson on the list, although, according to the policy manual, "only the commissioner has the authority to place a player on the exempt list."
The move will keep Peterson away from the team, but he will be paid his weekly salary of $691,176.50.
Later Wednesday, the Panthers also placed defensive end Greg Hardy on the exempt list. A North Carolina judge found him guilty in July of assaulting a female acquaintance in May. The move means that Hardy, like Peterson, will be paid his weekly salary ($770,588.23) but can have no contact with the team until he is removed from the list. Hardy appealed his guilty verdict and has a jury trial scheduled for Nov. 17.
"I understand that I need to step away from football right now and take care of this legal matter," Hardy said in a statement. "I am entitled to my day in court and that's where my focus should be. My decision to take a leave of absence allows me to focus on my family until the legal process has run its course."
The Vikings deactivated Peterson for last Sunday's game against the Patriots but announced Monday he would rejoin the team this week. But the backlash was so swift and strong that the Vikings' ownership and front office felt compelled to reverse their decision, issuing a release at 1:47 a.m. Wednesday to announce that Peterson would not rejoin the team after all.
"It is important to always listen to our fans and the community and our sponsors," Wilf said. "Our goal is always to make the decision we feel is right for the Minnesota Vikings . . . We want to be sure we get this right."
A third NFL player is involved with domestic violence. Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer has been arrested on aggravated assault charges in connection with two altercations at his home in late July involving a 27-year-old woman and an 18-month-old.
Phoenix police announced the arrest Wednesday. One of the counts was "aggravated assault causing a fracture." The Cardinals are cooperating with the investigation and have deactivated Dwyer from all team activities.
Peterson has lost several endorsements as a result of his legal entanglement. Nike suspended its contract with him Wednesday. The company recently ended its endorsement deal with Ray Rice, suspended indefinitely for knocking his then-fiancee unconscious inside an elevator of an Atlantic City casino in February.
Mylan Specialty, the pharmaceutical company that manufacturers EpiPen, a popular allergy treatment, ended its association with Peterson. Castrol Motor Oil and Special Olympics Minnesota also cut ties with him.
Several of the NFL's advertisers also had criticized the Vikings and the league over Peterson's reinstatement, as well as the league's handling of Rice's situation. On Tuesday, Anheuser-Busch, which spends approximately $200 million per year on NFL advertising, was particularly stinging in its condemnation.
Mark Wilf, co-owner of the Vikings along with brother Zygi, said keeping Peterson away from the team was not related to financial issues with its sponsors. "Absolutely not," he said. "We value our partners, our sponsors, our community and especially our fans. In the end, it really is about getting it right. We made a mistake."
Peterson is scheduled to appear Oct. 8 in Montgomery County court on a felony charge of injury to a child.
Attorney Gloria Allred held a news conference in Atlanta and said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell ignored complaints filed in 2007 about then-Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the NFL's investigation into its handling of the domestic violence case involving Rice is an appropriate response. When asked whether Goodell should resign over the way his office handled the incident, the California Democrat sidestepped the question.