Long suffering Vikings fans–a population of which I am a proud/depressed member–received emotionally confusing news earlier this week.  Adrian Peterson, scourge of the NFL, pled out of his felony child abuse case for a lesser charge, thereby concluding his case and avoiding jail time.  This news was emotionally confusing because, while Peterson is a superlative football player that could make my beloved Vikings a more formidable team, something just doesn’t feel right about cheering for a player who did what he did.

Vikings fans are not the only ones wandering around with the overwhelming melodramatic angst of Dawson’s Creek characters.  Vikings management is undoubtedly racking their brains about how to handle this development without alienating and disappointing their fans and their “corporate partners”–groups with somewhat different opinions.

Frankly, the Vikings couldn’t have handled the Peterson situation worse when the allegations initially came to light.  After putting Peterson on the inactive list and then promptly getting stomped by the New England Patriots, the Vikings reversed course and reinstated Peterson while lauding the importance of “due process.”  Of course, if due process was their goal, there was no meaningful reason to deactivate Peterson in the first place.  While the Vikings dithered about, the actions of their advertisers were swift and decisive.  Radisson cut ties with the Vikings, Nike suspended its contract with Peterson, and Target and other retailers removed all of its Peterson related clothing.

All of this creates an interesting stew to consider.  The speculation has been that Peterson is unlikely to face any further suspension from the NFL because he has already missed 8 games.  This is two games more than the 6 game suspension called for by the NFL’s recently instituted domestic violence policy.  That means he could very well be available to play within the next two weeks.  If the Vikings put him on the field immediately, they potentially face the ire (again) of corporate sponsors that want nothing to do with Peterson.  But if they don’t play him, they potentially face the outrage of their core fan base who, I suspect, is responsible for a substantially greater portion of their revenue than their corporate sponsors.  I suppose its at least possible that the Vikings will at least solicit input from their sponsors prior to making a decision so they can at least begin to assess the financial impact of whatever decision they make.  Regardless, it should be some interesting “brand watching” over the next several weeks.