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It Was One Of The Roughest Weeks Ever For America's Favorite Sport


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Wade Goodwyn and it's time for Sports.

Well, we'd like to talk about sports, but the National Football League won't let us. Still reeling from the Ray Rice domestic violence case, the NFL is dealing with yet another star player in trouble. It's not been a great week off the field for America's most popular sport and joining me to try to sift through it all is NPR Sports correspondent Tom Goldman.

Tom, good morning.


GOODWYN: A week that began with the Ray Rice scandal is ending with the spotlight on another star running back - one of the best, in fact - Minnesota's Adrian Peterson has been indicted on child abuse charges. What happened?

GOLDMAN: Well, Peterson was booked and released from jail in Texas this morning after posting bond. This case is about Peterson's punishment of his 4-year-old son with a switch, reportedly a tree branch. Last May, Peterson and his attorney paint a picture of quote, "loving father using old-fashioned discipline." Now, some media outlets got a hold of the police report in which Peterson said he gave the child a whooping. The child's mother took him to a doctor afterwards. The doctor told investigators the 4-year-old - 4 years old, Wade - had cuts and bruises on his thighs, lower back, buttocks, groin area.

The police report says the doctor described open wounds and called it child abuse.

GOODWYN: Minnesota plays New England tomorrow. Is Adrian Peterson going to play?

GOLDMAN: He is not. The Vikings deactivated him. He won't play but he'll still get paid. It's one of the options the team has. They can act unilaterally even if the legal process hasn't run its course.

GOODWYN: And that's an issue with the Carolina Panthers isn't? They've decided not to take action with one of their players who's in trouble with the law.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, defensive lineman Greg Hardy was found guilty by a judge of assaulting his girlfriend and threatening to kill her. And he's playing tomorrow as he did last weekend in the Panthers opening game. Hardy has appealed the conviction and asked for a jury trial.

And the team and the NFL, which is under so much scrutiny for the lenient response at first to the Ray Rice case, are saying they want to let the legal process play out before they take any possible action.

GOODWYN: What action could they take?

GOLDMAN: Well, the team can deactivate him or suspend him. The NFL can act. In 2010, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for six games after Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault. He was never charged but Goodell still punished him.

You know, the pressure to act in the Hardy case is growing as the media are starting to pick up on details of the case. Then there was this moment this week when Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, at a dinner honoring him, got choked up as he talked about the situation with Hardy. He said through tears, when it comes to domestic violence, my stance is not one of indifference. I stand firmly against domestic violence; plain and simple.

GOODWYN: The NFL's image is getting hammered by these cases of violence off the field. But the TV ratings are better than ever. People are still watching football, going to the games, playing fantasy football. Any chance this ugliness could start having an impact on the bottom line?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, if it's not all resolved to people's satisfaction, ESPN reported in a poll of nearly 550 Americans, more than half think the NFL commissioner Goodell is lying about what he knew about the video that shows Ray Rice punching and knocking out his then-fiancee. If Goodell can't restore credibility, if people who follow the NFL start believing Goodell and the League really don't care about women and the crime of domestic violence - advertisers, sponsors may react negatively.

And you know, certainly Goodell's comprehensive plan to attack the issue of domestic violence, something he laid out late last month, won't gain traction if people don't trust Goodell.

GOODWYN: Hey, Tom - could we talk about sports?

GOLDMAN: Love to.

GOODWYN: Women's pro basketball has a new champion as of last night.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. All hail the Phoenix Mercury. They beat Chicago to sweep the final series, 3-nothing. Last night was particularly meaningful for Phoenix because it won without its dominant post player, Brittney Griner, who was out with an eye injury. The Mercury dominated this year. They won a record 29 regular season games. They're fitting champions.

GOODWYN: Tom, thanks.

GOLDMAN: You bet.

GOODWYN: That's NPR Sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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