NFL star Adrian Peterson has said he is “without a doubt, not a child abuser”.
The Minnesota Vikings running back was charged last week with child cruelty over allegations that he used a tree branch to spank his four-year-old son.
His arrest sparked widespread debate over appropriate methods for disciplining children.
In a statement, Peterson said: “I want everyone to understand how sorry I feel about the hurt I have brought to my child.
“I never imagined being in a position where the world is judging my parenting skills or calling me a child abuser because of the discipline I administered to my son.
“I know that many people disagree with the way I disciplined my child. I also understand after meeting with a psychologist that there are other alternative ways of disciplining a child that may be more appropriate.
“I love my son and I will continue to become a better parent and learn from any mistakes I ever make.
“I am not a perfect son. I am not a perfect husband. I am not a perfect parent, but I am, without a doubt, not a child abuser.”
Peterson declined to comment specifically on the alleged incident involving his son, citing his attorney’s advice.
The Vikings, meanwhile, have reinstated the star running back to the team’s roster, saying he would “fully participate” in this week’s sessions and play in next Sunday’s game in New Orleans.
Peterson, the face of the Vikings and one of the NFL’s most respected players, was banned from playing in the team’s game on Sunday, which they lost 30-7 to the New England Patriots.
The Vikings’ owners said in a statement on Monday that their decision to put him back on the field was made after “significant thought, discussion and consideration”.
“To be clear,” they said, “we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child.
“At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action.”
Despite the allegations against Peterson, there was no shortage of fans wearing his No 28 jersey at the stadium on Sunday.
Nick Novak, a 29-year-old season-ticket holder, told the AP news agency: “I don’t think he was trying to abuse his child.
“I think he was trying to punish the child for wrongdoing. He did cross a line, though.”
Peterson allegedly left his son with cuts and bruises to his back, buttocks and legs.
The NFL star referred to last May’s incident in Spring, Texas, as a “whooping”, according to law enforcement sources.
He is said to have wielded the “switch” after his son pushed another of Peterson’s children.
The footballer’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, issued a statement on Friday saying his client was a “loving father” who was only using the same kind of discipline he experienced as a child growing up in Texas.
Peterson, who is in his eighth season in the NFL, has twice led the league in rushing yards.
In 2012, he finished the season with 2,097 yards – eight yards behind the all-time single-season record – and earned the league’s most valuable player award.
While his career on the field has shone, Peterson has dealt with several difficult issues away from the game.
The NFL has been on the defensive recently after being accused of a light touch when the league’s sporting role models stand accused of wrongdoing.
Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice initially received a two-game suspension for knocking out his then-fiancee before public outcry forced the NFL to impose an indefinite ban.
Rice is reportedly planning an appeal.
Author: Liban Farah
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