MINNEAPOLIS (AP/WCCO) — For as long as he’s been in the NFL, Adrian Peterson has been one of the most popular and most marketable stars in the league, an approachable superstar with the kind of inspirational comeback story that made him an endorser’s dream.
Now that he is facing a felony charge of child abuse for spanking his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch, the Minnesota Vikings running back is in the middle of a firestorm the likes of which he’s never seen before, and several high-profile sponsors are starting to distance themselves while the controversy swirls envelopes a league in crisis.
In the wake of the Vikings’ decision to allow Peterson to play while the legal process plays out in Texas, the Radisson hotel chain has suspended its relationship with the Vikings, Nike stores in the Twin Cities have stopped selling merchandise with his name on it and a message on his All Day Foundation’s website says the children’s charity is on hiatus and “will reengage after Adrian, his family, and staff have reflected on how the current situation impacts the direction for Adrian’s philanthropy.”
“It is an awful situation,” Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday. “Yes, Mr. Peterson is entitled to due process and should be ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ However, he is a public figure; and his actions, as described, are a public embarrassment to the Vikings organization and the State of Minnesota. Whipping a child to the extent of visible wounds, as has been alleged, should not be tolerated in our state. Therefore, I believe the team should suspend Mr. Peterson, until the accusations of child abuse have been resolved by the criminal justice system.”
Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf deactivated Peterson for the 30-7 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday while they tried to gather more information about the case. After reviewing files, speaking to Peterson, his attorney and authorities, the Wilfs decided to reinstate Peterson and he plans to play this weekend at New Orleans.
Radisson Hotels suspended its local sponsorship deal with the Vikings a short time later; the chain’s logo was on the backdrop behind general manager Rick Spielman when he made the controversial announcement Monday to bring back Peterson.
Nike stores at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Eagan and at an outlet mall in Albertville pulled Peterson merchandise. The Associated Press left a message with Nike seeking comment.
Mylan Inc. said it was no longer working with Peterson to promote its EpiPen, used to treat allergic reactions. The running back had participated in several promotions to raise awareness for anaphylaxis, which he has dealt with in the past.
ESPN reported Tuesday that Castrol Motor Oil terminated its contract with Peterson, and Special Olympics Minnesota said that “in light of the information that has come out…we are abstaining from any engagement with Adrian Peterson at this time.” Earlier this month, the organization announced him as an ambassador for Unified Sports.
University of Minnesota Children’s Hospitals issued a statement Tuesday saying it’s evaluating its Vikings sponsorship.
U.S. Bank, which is rumored to be in the running for the naming rights to the team’s new stadium, said it is “monitoring the situation closely.”
So is Shaun Hagglund, the owner of Fan HQ in suburban Minneapolis who said he pulled Peterson apparel from the store’s shelves as soon as the charge came down on Friday night.
“I’m not making a moral stand or a judgment,” Hagglund said. “Just for now, let’s see what comes of this and see what stories are true and which ones are not and take it from there.”
Hagglund said fans were still mentioning the incident Tuesday while shopping in the store.
“It was an uncomfortable position to put our employees in. So we pulled the jerseys until we see kind of what comes out… until we get to the bottom of this story. The jerseys are just pulled indefinitely,” he said.