Adrian Peterson‘s journey from revered NFL superstar to pariah over child abuse charges has been an emotional rollercoaster filled with twists and turns. His recent casting on "Dancing With the Stars" reignited discussion of his controversial past. This in-depth exposé will analyze how Peterson went from hero to villain in the eyes of fans, sponsors, and even DWTS personalities like Sharna Burgess.
Adrian Peterson‘s Meteoric Rise in College and the NFL
Before the infamy, Adrian Peterson was setting football fields ablaze during his college days at the University of Oklahoma. He set multiple Sooners rushing records on his way to being named a unanimous All-American.
The Minnesota Vikings selected Peterson 7th overall in the 2007 NFL Draft. His talent was undeniable from the start, evidenced by a rookie year that saw him rush for over 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Peterson‘s career trajectory only kept rising:
- Led NFL in rushing yards 3 times (2008, 2012, 2015)
- MVP season in 2012 with 2,097 rushing yards
- Set single-game rushing record with 296 yards in 2007
- Averaged 1,445 rushing yards and 12 TDs per season from 2008-2012
He cemented himself as one of the preeminent running backs of his generation. Fans and teammates revered Peterson for his rare combination of speed, power, and elusiveness.
Table 1 showcases key stats from Peterson‘s standout seasons prior to the 2014 controversy:
|Season||Rushing Yards||Total TDs||First Team All-Pro||Pro Bowl|
Peterson appeared destined for a place among the all-time great running backs in NFL history at this point in his career. But off-the-field events would soon alter his legacy forever.
The Child Abuse Charges That Changed Everything
In May 2014, Peterson was indicted by a grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child. The indictment stemmed from a disciplinary incident earlier that year with his 4-year-old son that involved a switch. While Peterson admitted to the spanking, he denied any intent to harm his son.
However, graphic photos revealed severe injuries to the child, including cuts and bruises to the back, buttocks, ankles and legs. A police report also indicated Peterson allegedly sent threatening text messages to the mother warning her not to report the incident.
Peterson was swiftly indicted formally charged, and arrested on the felony child abuse charges. The Vikings promptly deactivated him from all team activities in the aftermath.
Child psychology experts note that any physical discipline used out of anger or that leaves marks or injuries crosses the line into abuse, regardless of intent. Peterson ultimately pled no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault in November 2014 and avoided jail time outside of probation.
But the damage to his public standing had already been done.
Downward Spiral – Peterson‘s Career Derailed After Controversy
Peterson only played 1 game for the Vikings in 2014 after being placed on the exempt list following the charges. After pleading no contest, he faced potential suspension and banishment from the NFL.
A controversial reinstatement in 2015 saw Peterson return to rush for 1,485 yard at age 30. But he played just 3 games in 2016 due to a knee injury and lack of opportunities behind emerging back Dalvin Cook.
Table 2 outlines how Peterson‘s production steeply declined after 2014:
|Season||Games||Rushing Yards||Yards Per Game||Total TDs||Fumbles|
While injuries played a role, Peterson failed to regain elite form after time away from football and aging past 30. He did enjoy one last 1,000-yard season with Arizona in 2017 after being traded there by the Saints.
Overall though, the child abuse charges clearly interrupted Peterson‘s path to the Hall of Fame at the height of his powers.
Mixed Reactions to Peterson‘s DWTS Casting
In 2022, Peterson joined the cast of DWTS‘ 32nd season. His inclusion on the show alongside celebrities like Charlie‘s Angels star Cheryl Ladd immediately evoked backlash.
Outspoken pro dancer Sharna Burgess said she likely would have point blank refused to partner with Peterson if assigned to him. On her podcast, she explained:
"Dancing With the Stars is really showing us that they care by putting [Peterson] on our show and highlighting him. I think it’s a really destructive message to send."
Many DWTS fans echoed Burgess‘ sentiments on social media. One typical reaction labeled Peterson‘s casting as "disgraceful for what he did to his innocent son."
According to data analytics firm ListenFirst, Peterson was by far the most negatively mentioned DWTS contestant on Twitter. They measured 2,714 negative tweets about Peterson, compared to just 584 for controversial reality star Teresa Giudice.
However, fellow pro Cheryl Burke believes DWTS should not shoulder the blame, saying:
“I don’t think it’s the show’s fault for having someone like him that’s controversial. I think it’s just part of what the show is about and how they get viewership.”
Other contestants like actor Selma Blair admitted feeling uneasy about Peterson‘s criminal history. Still, they focused on controlling only their own experience on DWTS.
The conflict illustrates the tension between entertainment value and morality when casting divisive public figures. Ultimately America will decide if Peterson‘s redemption story resonates.
Long Road to Redemption Ahead for Peterson
Peterson‘s child abuse charges fractured his glowing image and greatly altered public perception. Figure 1 maps out a timeline of key events in the Adrian Peterson controversy saga:
Figure 1: Timeline of events in the Adrian Peterson child abuse controversy.
While Peterson avoided jail time, the consequences included massive reputational damage, loss of endorsements, and greatly reduced NFL productivity.
Brands like Nike, Castrol Oil, and Wheaties immediately suspended or terminated endorsement deals with Peterson in 2014 once charges emerged. He clearly still faces skepticism in the court of public opinion.
Nonetheless, we should hope Peterson has learned from past mistakes and will rediscover success. Let his story serve as a lesson to all on the responsibilities of fatherhood and the pitfalls of anger. Everyone deserves a chance at redemption – but it must be earned through strict adherence to legal and moral obligations.
Peterson‘s path forward requires repenting through both words and actions. That journey of atonement continues on the next stage of his career. Where it will ultimately lead depends on choices yet to be made and lessons still to be learned.