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In a move Tuesday that sent only a mild ripple through the NFL, the Minnesota Vikings guaranteed $20 million of tailback Adrian Peterson's existing contract. The decision made sense within the context of league finances. Peterson had complained publicly about his contract and, after all, is the best player on a team that is selling ticket licenses for a new stadium opening in 2016.
Moments like these, however, compel us to step outside the bubble of professional sports and accept just how warped it can be.
Peterson missed 15 games last season because of an incident with his son, then 4 years old, for which he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault. No entity expressed more public or private support than the Vikings, who lost sponsorship money in a misguided attempt to keep him on the field, then paid him more than $7 million to stash him on the exempt/commissioner's permission list.
Peterson, however, was not satisfied -- a common reaction among superstars. In a Twitter rant this past spring, he suggested his "free will" was restricted because his contract had no more guaranteed money in it, meaning he was bound to the Vikings for three more seasons even though they could terminate his pay at any time.
The Vikings, it appears, actually agreed. He is now guaranteed millions of dollars if he suffers a career-ending injury or if the Vikings decide to release him this year.
In football parlance, the move keeps the peace with a top player and minimizes the possibility for more issues next offseason. From a broader sense, it's undeniably ridiculous that the Vikings were compelled to reward a player who was at the center of one of the league's worst years in history. The civic optics are terrible.
Inside the bubble, this is a team taking care of a relatively standard offseason hiccup. From the outside, where the glare has been increasingly critical and unforgiving, it further buries the NFL as an awkward social participant.
You might remember that in March, commissioner Roger Goodell brought in New York Times columnist David Brooks to lecture on this very topic. Brooks hammered owners and the league for their insular approach, for their apparent belief that they had everything figured out, and suggested that a little humility -- a mild recognition that the league doesn't have all the answers -- could go a long way.
The Vikings would have been within their rights to take Brooks' advice, do something different and tell a player -- superstar or otherwise -- that he had no leverage to force a contract concession. Peterson, in fact, is a 30-year-old running back who has played in two NFL games since Dec. 8, 2013. He has plenty working against him in the negotiating room.
But the Vikings think they have a playoff team in 2015. They want to win, and everyone needs to be happy for that to happen. Faced with a similar predicament, most teams would have done the same thing. It's simple, really. If your expectations are for professional sport teams to take a socially introspective approach to their business decisions, you're going to be disappointed every time. Let's recognize, accept and move on.