The Dark Side of the Public Reaction to Ray Rice & Adrian Peterson

Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.

Aristotle

I too am bothered by the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson stories. My wife and I completed 40 hours of training as volunteer speakers at the Fargo/Moorhead Rape and Abuse Crisis Center. Our eyes were opened to the pervasiveness and destructiveness of abuse in our society. We did many projects for the Center, and I did many hours of consulting at no cost. I wrote several commentaries on emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Rice and Peterson will pay a dear price for their actions.

I am also bothered by what feels like excessive, misplaced, and poorly expressed anger in some newspaper columnists, readers who comment on articles, and radio talk-show hosts and their callers. They come across as politically correct, self-righteous, harshly judgmental, and self-promoting:  “The more I damn Rice and Peterson, the better person I am.” Their rush to judge and to punish without due process, information, understanding of context, or a sense of proportion scares me. I have thought, “This is what a lynch mob is like.” I’ve been guilty of these things too.

Some feel upset that the team management didn’t instantly punish Peterson as they want him to be punished. People should break away from their paternalistic relationship with organizations and quit looking to owners and executives to meet their need to strike out.

These folks and the good people who remain silent might channel some of their anger in more constructive ways: People who condemn Peterson and the Viking’s management should live true to their own values, put their anger to constructive use, and do what they can to model their convictions: don’t go, watch, or listen to Viking games. Don’t buy team merchandise. Columnists might illuminate abuse and educate readers. Talk-show hosts could turn the spotlight on the emotional, physical, and sexual abuse that surrounds us just below the surface of our awareness.

All should get angry at the vast abuse that permeates our society, not just the celebrity cases.

And everyone should speak up when they witness abuse in the family, neighborhood, and workplace.

Chris Kluwe

Chris Kluwe used to be the punter for the Minnesota Viking.

Kluwe–intelligent, authentic, somewhat eccentric–openly and loudly advocated for gay marriage.

He was cut from the team. Was it because of his football performance or his outspokenness in the conformity driven NFL?

Kluwe accused an assistant coach of anti-gay slurs. The coach denied it. The team investigated. The coach admitted the slur when another player said he heard the words. The Vikings suspended the coach for three games.

Kluwe threatened to sue. The team agreed to contribute to gay rights groups over several years and all Vikings employees would get sensitivity training.

The lawsuit was dropped.

Kluwe had plenty of critics–in the media and in the masses.

It isn’t easy being a truth-teller who goes against the powerful organization and the entire NFL. Kluwe was verbally attacked. People questioned his motives. Critics used Kluwe’s own human mistakes against him to diminish his credibility. He won’t play again in the NFL.

Erase all the garbage and one fact remains: Chris Kluwe changed the world with his courage.

That’s more than his attackers can say.