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Updated: March 15th, 2011 10:37pm
Pelissero: Amiable Adrian Peterson's ignorant words won't be forgotten

Pelissero: Amiable Adrian Peterson's ignorant words won't be forgotten

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by Tom Pelissero

Adrian Peterson couldn't have picked a worse time to compare NFL players to slaves.

Wait, strike that. There is no good time, no good context and no good excuse to say something so plainly ignorant, even if you happen to be an accomplished African-American who thinks "people kind of laugh at that."

Slavery tops the list of words that never should find their way into sports metaphors. It's right there alongside war, rape, AIDS, 9/11 and anything to do with Hitler or the Holocaust.

When it comes to the millionaire employ of a multibillion-dollar industry, mostly black men working for mostly white men is no more slavery than a fumble recovery is felony larceny. "Antitrust" doesn't belong in the same thought as "abolition." Free agency doesn't have a damn thing to do with freedom.

Still, look at the timing -- and not just the way Peterson's words could be perceived at a time the decertified NFL Players' Association is fighting the league over its share of a $9 billion pie in the courts of Minnesota and public opinion.

Peterson is scheduled to be the Minnesota Vikings' highest-paid player in 2011, with a base salary of $10.72 million.

And there's a good chance Peterson won't play a down unless he gets more.

Peterson and his agent, Ben Dogra, surely believe the All-Pro halfback's next contract should include upwards of $20 million guaranteed. He turns 26 next week, his position has a high rate of depreciation and he could lose millions if he gets hurt or his production takes a nosedive in new coordinator Bill Musgrave's offense.

If training camp starts in July -- or August, or whenever players go back to work -- and Peterson isn't on the field, his comments to Yahoo! Sports about "modern-day slavery" will be recalled just as dubiously as Latrell Sprewell's fateful words 6½ years ago.

Back in 2004, Sprewell turned down a three-year, $21 million contract extension from the Minnesota Timberwolves because "I got a family to feed." He proceeded to have the worst year of his 13-year career and never played in the NBA again.

Peterson probably won't fall as hard as Sprewell, who has faced a steady stream of legal and financial problems in recent years. But at a time the nation is stuck in recession and the unemployment rate hovers around 9%, Peterson just set up himself to become owners' example of everything that's wrong with the modern player.

Which is too bad, because that's not Peterson -- as amiable as almost any star in the NFL. He got my vote last season for the Korey Stringer Good Guy Award, presented to the player who is most accommodating with the media, because he kept facing questions during the Vikings' collapse at times other veterans were running for cover.

Peterson was a sociology major at Oklahoma who has his own foundation and has hosted Special Olympics events for kids at Winter Park. The Yahoo! story broke while he was on his latest charity mission to Africa.

A statement released by Dogra urging people not to take his client's words out of context missed the point. Then again, if Peterson was out of touch, what else could his agent say?

Peterson is not a stupid guy, but he said a profoundly stupid thing. Right or wrong, it won't be forgotten if and when he deems $10.72 million insufficient to play one season of football -- especially by those whose families are in real danger of not getting fed.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
In this story: Adrian Peterson