The latest issue of ESPN The Magazine features an in-depth look at the last year of Adrian Peterson’s life, during which the star running back missed almost the entire 2014 season and lost many of his sponsorships in the wake of an indictment on child abuse charges. There’s a lot going on the story, which you should absolutely read, but two big things stand out: Adrian Peterson is not in the least bit sorry about what he did, and he will stay that way because everyone in his inner circle believes or at least tells him he was in the right.
A lot of the story’s action takes place at that batshit insane birthday party Peterson threw for himself, which was even crazier than you already assumed it was and functioned as a way for Peterson to ostentatiously wash himself of his haters.
They found a lemur available for rent and a python that would drape like a scarf over Peterson’s shoulders. They imported a troupe of snake charmers out of Dallas and world-renowned belly dancers from New York. There was an elaborate tent city in Peterson’s backyard: Moroccan couches, velvet drapes, ice sculptures bearing Peterson’s initials, imported trees and a throne on which Peterson alone would be allowed to sit. The cake designer baked a royal palace flanked by a fondant camel and elephant. Wale agreed to perform. Jamie Foxx offered his services as a DJ. In the final hours before the party, more than 100 workers rushed to set up stripper poles, a hookah bar and a cigar humidor in a tent called the Man Cave.
“Even the port-a-potties were over the top, with silver sinks and shiny floors,” says Bobby Maze, one of Peterson’s closest friends. “You would have thought you were going to the bathroom at Ruth’s Chris.”
Peterson entered by a path from the front door of his house toward the main tent. Another parade formed in front of him to lead the way: first the fire-breathers, then the sword swallowers, then the snake charmers and the belly dancers and then finally a camel, rented for the night from an Austin zoo. By the camel’s side were three men dressed as humble peasants, their eyes glued to the floor, and atop the camel was one man, Peterson, wearing a bejeweled Arabian headdress and a gold sequined jacket.
When not throwing himself parties, Peterson spent most of the last year in his hometown of Palestine, Tex., surrounded by friends and admirers who would do things like chant “Fuck the haters!” at a parade held in his honor and put signs reading, “RAISED TOUGH TO BECOME TOUGH” in their yards. He asks his relatives not to mention the abuse allegations in his presence.
One of the members of this inner-circle, Peterson’s cousin Carol Pegues, was not shy about taking up for Peterson in the story:
What is regarded in so many other places as obvious child abuse is considered by some in Palestine to be the hallmark of good parenting. Whipping a 4-year-old boy with a thorny tree branch as punishment for shoving his brother? “If you spare the rod, you spoil the child,” Pegues says. Those photos that showed dozens of red welts and sores covering the boy’s back, legs, shoulders, butt and scrotum? “We’re from the old school, and we all got it like that coming up,” Pegues says. The ensuing reports that Peterson also had hit at least one of his other children with a switch, even though he saw some of those children only once or twice a year?
“As a parent, we learned that you have to draw a hard line and be consistent,” Pegues says. “I cannot find one switch mark on my body today, but it is posted in my brain, right from wrong. It’s posted on Adrian’s brain too. That’s how you learn. He just went out and did what he had to do.”
There’s also a harrowing anecdote about the time Peterson, at age five, was made to stand on a football field and get repeatedly tackled by his older cousins in order to see if he was tough enough to play touch football. Now go read the whole thing, but be ready to feel very bad about everything.