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How Can Oklahoma Defend Joe Mixon and its Culture?

The Sooners have a record of not punishing players with serious offenses...

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday afternoon, a video showing Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon punching a woman in the face was released to the public for the first time. The incident occurred in the summer of 2014, but the video was withheld until a recent Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling decided it should be made public.

If you haven’t seen the video yet, I recommend you don’t watch it. While we have known for two and a half years that Mixon broke a woman’s jaw, seeing something awful is always worse than hearing about something awful. It truly was sickening to watch it. He hits her about as hard as he can. You can tell the impact was harsh by how the woman’s hair goes flying. Then her head hits the table on her way to the floor, and Mixon turns around and leaves. When she can, the woman stands up and her face is visibly bloody.

Some (mostly Sooners fans and egg avatars on Twitter) claim that Mixon’s actions qualify as self-defense. That’s a load of crap. Mixon, an NFL caliber athlete, was lightly shoved then slapped across the face by a woman half his size. He could have properly and adequately defended himself by extending an arm out to keep her from striking again.

But swinging back with 100 times the force you were hit with is not “defense.” It’s far beyond that to the point of aggression with malicious intent. Furthermore, the entire incident could have been avoided had Mixon stayed outside the restaurant following an alleged verbal altercation preceding Mixon’s jaw-breaking punch.

Oklahoma President David Boren and head football coach Bob Stoops saw this video two years ago and decided Joe Mixon was still worthy of being a scholarship athlete at their university. That’s stunning to me. His only “punishment” was redshirting his freshman season. He did not lose his scholarship. He did not lose any eligibility. Oklahoma knew he viciously broke a woman’s jaw and essentially did not punish him. That’s not the leadership that should be expected from people in their respective positions.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident for neither Mixon nor Oklahoma.

Earlier this season, Mixon was given a parking ticket. This is not a big deal for 99% of people, but Mixon chose to escalate the situation. According to an incident report, Mixon told the parking attendant, “don’t put that sh*t in my face,” when given the citation. He then ripped it up and threw it at the attendant’s face. Then, before leaving the scene, Mixon intentionally intimidated the attendant by putting his car in drive and inching it towards the attendant to act like he was going to run him over.

He was suspended one game for the incident, which is one more than he was suspended for breaking a woman’s jaw. Bob Stoops released a statement after the parking ticket incident and said, “OU sets very high standards and they must be met by all of our student athletes.” Did Bob Stoops think the video of Mixon punching a woman in the face adequately upheld these standards?

Joe Mixon isn’t the only player with questionable character that Oklahoma believes should have a scholarship to play football at its university.

The Sooners’ star wide receiver Dede Westbrook, who was a Heisman Trophy finalist this year, was accused of throwing his child’s mother to the ground in 2012 after breaking a window to enter her residence, and biting and punching the same woman in 2013. This year, he was advised by police in January not to visit his children’s mother anymore, yet was arrested for trespassing in May for trying to see her yet again.

In response to Westbrook’s past coming to public light (only a matter of days before the Mixon video was made public), Oklahoma released a statement claiming it conducts a background check on every individual they recruit. They claim to have missed Westbrook’s 2012 and 2013 incidents, but don’t account for why they didn’t punish Westbrook at all for his trespassing arrest earlier this year.

The same year that Oklahoma recruited and gave Westbrook a scholarship, they recruited and gave a roster spot to Dorial Green Beckham, a former wide receiver from Missouri. Green Beckham’s issues were all well known, and Oklahoma couldn’t plead ignorance this time.

During his time at Mizzou, Green Beckham was arrested twice on marijuana charges. He was also mentioned in a police report as shoving a woman down a flight of stairs during an attempted burglary. And again, Oklahoma decided he was worthy of a roster spot and that he adequately met the “very high standards” that Bob Stoops says all OU student athletes are held to.

The final incident I’d like to highlight is far less severe, but it’s reflective of a poor display of character by yet another OU athlete. During the Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma game this year, star running back Samaje Perine sat out with an injury. He’s a tough guy, though, which he put on display by intentionally and maliciously shoving a Texas Tech player who was out of bounds after the play on the field was over. Perine laughed about it with his teammates on the sidelines.

There was no statement, no apology, and, of course, no punishment for Perine from Oklahoma.

That’s not surprising given the pattern that has emerged from OU in recent years. It’s really quite simple; if you’re good enough at helping Oklahoma win football games, they don’t care what you do off the field.

And that’s because Oklahoma is apparently not focused on arguably the primary aspect of amateur athletics at the collegiate level. Winning games is great, and it’s important for coaches and administrators to keep their jobs.

But the primary objective, and the reason why any coach who’s worth a darn will tell you they entered the profession, is to help mentor, mold, and educate young men to be better people and to succeed in life off the field. And make no mistake, Oklahoma football players are not the only ones to screw up. Young men at every program across the country screw up every day, whether it’s skipping class, marijuana or something more serious like sexual assault or punching a woman in the face.

The difference is that most programs are far more transparent and decide to tangibly punish their players according to their offense. Oklahoma should have kicked Mixon off their team. Players have lost roster spots for less egregious offenses.

Instead, Oklahoma has created and perpetuated a culture that implies if you’re good enough at football, your poor behavior is excused. That’s unacceptable.