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Vikings reverse course, ban Adrian Peterson as sponsors express concern

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Tom Gannam/AP

(Read caption) Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson warms up for an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis on Sept. 7.

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Following a decision that would have let Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson play in the team's upcoming game against the New Orleans Saints, the Vikings switched gears and have since barred Mr. Peterson from all team activities in the wake of severe public criticism. The team has put Peterson on an exemption waiver, meaning he is ineligible to play "until the legal proceedings are resolved," though he will still receive pay. 

Peterson was indicted by a grand jury last week in his home state of Texas on charges of child abuse. Authorities say he beat his 4-year-old son with a wooden stick, known as a "switch."  

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At a news conference Wednesday, Vikings co-owner Zygi Wilf expressed remorse at the way the team had handled the Peterson situation until this point. 

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"We made a mistake, and we needed to get this right," Mr. Wilf said. "It's important to listen to our fans, the community and our sponsors. Our goal is always to make the decision we feel is right for the Minnesota Vikings." 

Peterson's agent, Ben Dogra, told The Associated Press, "this is the best possible outcome given the circumstances." 

A warrant for Peterson's arrest was issued Friday, upon which he flew to Houston and turned himself in. He was then released and returned to Minnesota after posting a $15,000 bond.

The Vikings did not let him play in Sunday’s 30-7 loss to the New England Patriots. But he was reinstated for the Vikings’ upcoming game in New Orleans against the Saints, prior to his suspension Wednesday morning. 

Further allegations have also surfaced regarding a different son of Peterson, who allegedly received a head wound after Peterson disciplined him. Peterson's attorney has denied this allegation.

A recent league Most Valuable Player, Peterson is now facing the prospect of not playing again this season, The Wall Street Journal reports. His first court date is not scheduled until Oct. 8. 

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Peterson and the Vikings have lost sponsorships from corporations that disagree with the Vikings' handling of the situation.

Nike has suspended its endorsement contract with Peterson. "Nike in no way condones child abuse or domestic violence of any kind and has shared our concerns with the NFL," Nike spokesman KeJuan Wilkins said in a statement. 

This follows Tuesday's announcement that the Radisson hotel chain was temporarily suspending its sponsorship of the Vikings.

"Radisson takes this matter very seriously, particularly in light of our longstanding commitment to the protection of children," the company said in a statement. "We are closely following the situation and effective immediately, Radisson is suspending its limited sponsorship of the Minnesota Vikings while we evaluate the facts and circumstances." 

Peterson's All Day Foundation, devoted to helping children, has been temporarily taken offline after being overwhelmed by media inquiries.

"The Foundation will continue to support the various philanthropic causes that Adrian and his family care so deeply about," reads a statement posted to the All Day Foundation's site. 

The way the NFL has handled the Peterson situation is one of a series of controversial decisions taken in recent weeks to deal with instances of off-the-field violence. Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was indefinitely suspended from the league only after the emergence of video footage showing him beating his then-fiancée unconscious in an Atlantic City elevator. He is appealing the NFL's decision. 

Other NFL players who are currently either convicted of domestic abuse or are facing charges include San Francisco 49ers lineman Ray McDonald and Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy. The Associated Press reports that Mr. Hardy has been removed from his team's active roster. Mr. McDonald continues to play for the 49ers.

Despite cries for a tougher league stance on domestic violence and for Commissioner Roger Goodell’s resignation, corporate sponsors have, for the most part, made few moves toward severing ties with the NFL or individual teams. A few, however, such as Visa, Pepsi, and Campbell’s Soup, have stated their disappointment with the league's handling of the Rice and Peterson cases.