Peterson, who won the NFL's Most Valuable Player award in 2012, hasn't played since he was indicted in September on a felony charge of injury to a child after an incident earlier this year in suburban Houston. Earlier this month, he pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of misdemeanour reckless assault and was sentenced to a form of probation.
Until Tuesday's announcement, he had been on paid leave under a special exemption from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Peterson will not be considered for reinstatement by the NFL before April 15, the league said in a statement, though he can appeal the ruling.
Peterson showed 'no meaningful remorse': NFL
The NFL's statement contained excerpts from a letter sent by Goodell to Peterson, part of which identified "several aggravating circumstances" in Peterson's case:
“First, the injury was inflicted on a child who was only four years old. The difference in size and strength between you and the child is significant, and your actions clearly caused physical injury to the child. While an adult may have a number of options when confronted with abuse — to flee, to fight back, or to seek help from law enforcement — none of those options is realistically available to a four-year old child. Further, the injury inflicted on your son includes the emotional and psychological trauma to a young child who suffers criminal physical abuse at the hands of his father.
“Second, the repetitive use of a switch in this instance is the functional equivalent of a weapon, particularly in the hands of someone with the strength of an accomplished professional athlete.
“Third, you have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct. When indicted, you acknowledged what you did but said that you would not ‘eliminate whooping my kids’ and defended your conduct in numerous published text messages to the child’s mother. You also said that you felt ‘very confident with my actions because I know my intent.’ These comments raise the serious concern that you do not fully appreciate the seriousness of your conduct, or even worse, that you may feel free to engage in similar conduct in the future.”
NFL criticized for domestic violence cases
Peterson is one of a handful of NFL players who have been involved in domestic violence cases lately, including Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer and former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
After receiving plenty of criticism for initially handing Rice only a two-game suspension, Goodell announced in August that he was toughening the league's punishments for domestic violence. Attention to the issue rose considerably in September, when a video surfaced showing Rice knocking out his then-fiancee — and now wife — in a casino elevator; he soon was cut by the Ravens and indefinitely barred by the league.
Peterson has said he never intended to harm his son and was disciplining him in the same way he had been as a child growing up in East Texas. The boy suffered cuts, marks and bruising to his thighs, back and one of his testicles, according to court records.