(Photo courtesy of Minnesota Vikings)
By Ron Borges
TALK OF FAME NETWORK
Regardless of how things work out this season, Adrian Peterson will never be mistaken for Cesar Chavez.
The sometimes petulant Peterson went on an 11-tweet rant last week, lamenting the fact that pro football players don't have fully guaranteed contracts as in other sports. Like most folks, he blamed his union.
During the course of his discourse, Peterson forgot a simple fact. Or maybe he just chose to ignore it, as he has done with so many other simple facts since he first got himself caught in a wringer brought on (literally in this case) by his own hand and missed nearly all of last season ... yet didn't miss a paycheck.
And that fact is this: Peterson and his peers ARE the union, and they've never been willing to stand up and fight for anything but extra yardage.
Major-league baseball players have the best deal in sports because they shut down the World Series. NFL players back in 2011 weren't willing to shut down the Hall-of-Fame Game.
That's why they don't have true free agency. That's why they sign illusory contracts that bind them to their teams but do not bind their teams, in most cases, to them. That's why they don't have the right to independent arbitration but, rather, have agreed since 1968 to accept a system where the commissioner is judge, jury, appeals judge and hanging judge in most matters of player discipline and conduct detrimental to the league.
Peterson won a pyrrhic victory over the commissioner's powers when his suspension was overturned by Judge David Doty, who oversees the CBA that exists between players and NFL management. Doty got Peterson paid, but the commissioner put him on his exempt list, which meant he still couldn't play. And there was nothing Doty could do about it.
So his was a financial victory but an athletically empty one, as he's slowly begun to realize.
For months, Peterson has tried to sulk his way out of Minnesota, claiming he felt disrespected by how the Vikings handled his situation. This was after he was accused of disrespecting his 4-year-old son by severely spanking him with a tree branch known as a switch, an act for which he eventually pled no contest to reckless assault.
Before we go much further, ask yourself what that means. Reckless assault on a 4-year-old by a 217-pound NFL running back who can bring you to your knees simply with a handshake. You'd think after that a guy might put the idea of being disrespected by others to rest, but this is Sportworld, not real world.
Ever since the last check cleared, Peterson and his minions -- primarily, agent Ben Dogra -- tried to whine their way out of Minnesota, hopefully to land back in Dallas. When that failed, they tried threats, then a boycott of the team's OTAs, followed by that Twitter rant that included comments like the following from Adrian Peterson, Labor Organizer:
"Well why when one party decides ... Mr. ? we want you to take a pay cut now or better yet flat out release you! There's never no talk about honoring a contract!
"I know hundreds of player's that wished their team would've HONORED the contract! But instead got threw to the side like trash.''
There was more, but you get the gist. Apparently, Peterson didn't get the gist of NFL labor history, however. In any labor movement, you get what you fight for. Nothing more, nothing less.
Football players were never willing to fight for themselves once it began to hurt, nor would they sacrifice the present moment for a better future for those coming behind them. This is what distinguishes them from baseball players when it comes to labor matters. As Cesar Chavez, the great California farm labor organizer understood, you reap what you sow.
Four days after his rant, Peterson tucked his tail between his legs and said he'd decided to end his boycott of the Vikings' OTAs and return to the fold. Twitter will not set you free.
"I'm returning because I want to,'' he said in an e-mail to ESPN. "I'm a part of this football team and I owe it to the guys I play with and to our coaches. I was planning on coming in this week, and I'm looking forward to getting back on the field. It's what I love to do."
You're returning because you had no choice once head coach Mike Zimmer stated: "He can play for us or he can not play.'' Zimmer didn't say it to puff out his chest or flex his muscles. He was just tired of the drama and felt it was time to make it clear to Adrian where things were really at.
This was no front office stuffed shirt, no thinly mustached owner. This was a no nonsense guy Peterson respected. More importantly, it was one guy he knew wasn't kidding. End of boycott.
Adrian Peterson may wish he had a guaranteed contract, but the fact is he's already been paid over $30 million in guarantees, not to mention nearly a full season's salary for not playing because of his overaggressive corporal punishment of a 4-year-old. He says the Vikings didn't back him "properly'' when the commissioner put him on his exempt list, which meant he'd get a paid leave of absence for the season. To that I say, "Where do I sign up?"
In addition, OTAs are voluntary workouts, bro. That means you don't have to show up if you don't want to yet hear where the great labor leader stood on Tuesday, walking back in to work. Why? For the money, which is the short-term choice NFL players have always made.
Adrian Peterson wasn't there to support anybody but himself. He was there to insure he collects as much of the $12.75 million the Vikings are disrespectfully agreeing to pay him this season as he can get. No shame in that, but can the John L. Lewis schtick.
NFL players always demand they be treated like a men, except when they want to be treated like wayward boys. What seems to have eluded Adrian Peterson in all this is for once he's gotten his wish. He's been treated like a man. He's been forced to pay for his actions and honor the contract he signed.
Yo, Adrian! How's it feel?