by A. Big Country
Drop a stone into a lake and you can watch the ripples roll out to the edges. If the lake were a confluence of many outlets of rivers and streams, the ripples surely would make their way there, but not as predictably. In the case of Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon, the boulder has dropped, and the extension of that impact is not only uncertain, but influenced by a number of powerful factors.
In 2014, Mixon was a promising young football player. He had committed to play running back at Oklahoma’s perennial powerhouse program. It was July, and he was on campus preparing to begin his promising career, while celebrating his 18th birthday.
Mixon was at a campus restaurant when a confrontation broke out. He reportedly approached a woman at the restaurant and flirted with her. His advances were not welcomed, and he reportedly took to bad-mouthing her and the company she was with. Surveillance video, according to those who have seen it, has her pushing and then slapping Mixon.
Mixon punches the woman in the face.
Mixon took an Alford plea (in short, a deal where he can accept the charge without admitting guilt) with a one-year deferred sentence, and he was suspended for one year from the football team (a redshirt season which, by NCAA rules, maintains his four years of eligibility).
While all of this took place in 2014, it has drawn more attention now. What happened in between?
For one, the press has worked ardently to get the tape released. So far, the surveillance video reports have only been “according to those who have seen it” because it was never released to the public. The City Attorney for the city of Norman, Oklahoma, where the team is based, did not wish to release it. The press moved the issue to the lower court, which agreed that the tape did not need to be released. The issue went to the state Supreme Court — which, on December 6, ruled that the tape must be released for public viewing.
The other thing that happened between the assault and today is that Mixon has become a star on the football team. This year, his second season, Mixon led the team with 1,183 rushing yards while catching 32 balls for 449 yards and had 15 total touchdowns. His dual-threat ability has him ranked as one of the best backs in the country and, on talent alone, a first-round NFL draft prospect. Mixon is eligible for the NFL draft coming in April of 2017.
The state Supreme Court decision does not just come two and a half years after the incident, but also one month before Oklahoma’s appearance in the Sugar Bowl, one of the highest-rated college football games of the year. And less than six months before the NFL draft.
However, the ruling does not mean this tape is coming out right away. The state attorney’s office has 20 days to file an appeal. An appeal would push the release of the tape to January 2017, at the earliest. This would keep the court of public opinion at bay as well, likely allowing Mixon to participate in Oklahoma’s bowl game on January 2. As fans saw with the release of the Ray Rice video of him hitting his fiancée in an elevator, public release of such a video changes everything. In the case of Rice, it meant he went from a two-game suspension to a season long suspension. Rice hasn’t played another down in the NFL.
And now here’s Mixon, an unproven commodity that NFL teams have to decide is worth the PR backlash. It’s already a long shot for him, but if the tape is released, those odds go down significantly.
There’s a lot riding on this decision, including the reputations of a university, the NFL and any NFL team that gives him an opportunity.
And there’s one other player in this scenario.
Have you noticed that I haven’t mentioned the victim? Her name is Amelia Molitor. And no one else is talking about her, either. In all of the articles, you rarely hear that his punch knocked her unconscious and broke four bones in her face, which eventually required surgery. You don’t see that she is suing Mixon for her medical expenses and emotional distress, or that she refuses to attend games in which Mixon plays, despite being a student at the university and a fan of the team.
And this is how violence like this gets brushed under the rug. An attack is dismissed to the benefit of good football. Perhaps the release of this tape will move the focus onto the true issue — assault. Let’s hope it eventually reaches the public.