Had Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon punched Mia Molitor in 2016 and not 2014, he likely wouldn’t be a member of the Oklahoma football team.
That was the message from Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops on Wednesday in his first public comments after the surveillance tape of Mixon punching Molitor on July 28, 2014, was released by the running back’s attorneys last week.
Mixon, a five-star incoming freshman, was suspended for the 2014 season and reinstated to the team the following spring. He’s become an invaluable piece of Oklahoma’s dynamic offense over the past two seasons.
The running back agreed to a plea deal in the criminal case and a civil suit by Molitor is now pending.
“Really the only thing that’s ever acceptable anymore is dismissal,” Stoops said at his press conference. “We didn’t go that route 2.5 years ago. Again, thought this man deserved an opportunity moving forward to have a chance to redeem himself and grow out of it and to be positive out in the community and that was the intention.”
Not long after he made those comments, Stoops was asked directly if he would come to a different “conclusion” regarding Mixon’s discipline if the punch had been thrown July 28, 2016.
“I think that is fair to say,” Stoops said. “Because, yes. I do believe I would.”
“Again, now as things are 2.5 years later, dismissal’s really the only thing that’s possible. And a young guy having an opportunity to rehabilitation and have some kind of discipline and come back from it is really not there anymore.”
Is this where we should pat ourselves on the back for changing so much as a society that we demand more severe punishments for punching women? Maybe it’s simply a bit of revisionist history masking a mea culpa by the Oklahoma coach who said he “hated” watching the video.
In September 2014, less than two months after Mixon punched Molitor, the Baltimore Ravens cut running back Ray Rice after surveillance footage showed the vicious punch Rice threw to knock his wife out in an elevator.
Rice was cut just months after Ravens officials — before the tape was released — stood by their running back. After the tape was publicly released by TMZ, Rice was indefinitely suspended by the NFL and a high-profile investigation into what the the NFL did and didn’t know about the incident in the spring was launched.
The public reaction to the disturbing video of Rice punching his wife was no different than the reaction of those who saw Mixon punch Molitor for the first time last week, even if many knew what to expect from the video.
Local media were granted a viewing of the Mixon tape just days before the Rice tape was released. The descriptions from those who attended the viewing painted a gruesome picture of the force of the punch. Molitor’s head hit a nearby table after the punch and she broke multiple facial bones.
While the video makes the punch and subsquent fall that much vivid, it provided no details that weren’t already known to Oklahoma fans and other college football fans who had been paying attention to the case.
Stoops said Oklahoma made the decision to suspend Mixon with the idea that the tape would be released weeks, not years, after the incident (the tape was held from public record by the City of Norman, Oklahoma, until a recent state supreme court ruling).
There’s no reason to believe that isn’t true. But it’s a lot easier to suspend a freshman running back and dismiss him while the suspension is still fresh because of public opinion than to explain the decision 2.5 years later after the star recruit has become a star player.
And, anyway, if the video’s release has any impact on the punishment, Stoops still has the power to kick Mixon off the team right now.
But he won’t. And he shouldn’t. Attempting to rectify a mistake 2.5 years later because a surveillance tape was released isn’t a good idea.
“What we came up with discipline-wise, I feel, at the time, 2.5 years ago, we felt was significant,” Stoops said. “And fault me if believing that an 18-year-old without prior violent situations whatsoever — had an altercation and had the wrong, horrible response that he did. — that he might have an opportunity moving forward to redeem himself, improve from it, grow from it and someday possibly be forgiven. That was the intention, if he chose to come back and that’s what we had hoped for.”
Since he came back from suspension, Mixon’s only known offense is ripping up a parking ticket and allegedly throwing it in the direction of the issuing attendant. And he’s run for nearly 2,000 yards and scored 24 touchdowns. It’s production Oklahoma had in mind when they hoped he’d complete what was required from the school to be reinstated.
But now it’s OU and Stoops’ opportunity for redemption, and to grow and improve from the horrible response of suspending and reinstating Mixon. Citing how much different the world is from the summer of 2014 to the dawn of 2017 isn’t a good start. But actions are what’s important. If Stoops is ever faced with a similar decision again, there’s only one acceptable answer. And it shouldn’t have anything to do with public perception.
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