There’s a freshly constructed veranda overlooking hell where lawyers can decide it is in their client’s professional interest to release a video of him assaulting his girlfriend.
But this is big-time American college football, the place where shame goes to retire, and where public disgrace is a small price to pay for potential glory and ensuing riches.
There is no other profession – save perhaps politics, of course, which is an abattoir of an entirely difference class – in which Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon can have his lawyers release the tape showing him punching then-university student Amelia Molitor after an incident in an off-campus sandwich shop in which she is shown shoving him and he subsequently knocks her to the floor with a punch to the face.
The reasoning for releasing the tape, however, is more Kafka-esque than logic would suggest. His lawyers made it public so that the public furor surrounding the visual evidence of the crime would dissipate by the time of the NFL draft.
We will now give you time to collect your mandible and reattach it to the lower half of your face. And then you may return to the abyss to seek your reflection in the brackish water below.
In a week in which a bitter radio analyst spread game plan information to as many as four opponents of the team for whom he worked . . . in a week in which the offensive coordinator of one of the beneficiaries (Louisville) has been suspended for accepting that information . . . in a week in which the Minnesota football team is about to refuse to go to the Holiday Bowl to protest the suspensions of 10 of their teammates for their alleged roles in a gang rape . . . in this week of darkest absurdity, Joe Mixon sees releasing a tape showing him knocking a woman out as a tactically beneficial decision.
Mixon claimed at the time he was spat upon and provoked racially, but pleaded guilty without an admission of guilt and received a deferred sentence of one year and 100 hours community service as well as counseling. He has also formally apologized to Molitor, who has filed a civil suit against Mixon.
As for the university, it suspended him for a year (2015), but coach Bob Stoops restored him to the team this past season, saying at the time, “In our situation, we felt this (the suspension) was the right way to proceed. In the end, we felt that he's been disciplined. He was removed totally from all team activities from that point on. And he's earned a way to be back to have an opportunity for a second chance to redeem himself with strict guidelines that go with it.”
In sum, he is eligible to play in the Sugar Bowl against Auburn January 2., with the story he wants to go away being brought back to the forefront at his insistence.
I’m not sure how much more opportunistic cynicism you can coat this with, but it will take a team of woodworkers to sand this back down to the grain.
You have the persistent minimization of the violent act itself. You have Oklahoma’s storied ability to look the other way to one extent or the other when star players are involved in legal problems. You have Mixon waiting nearly two years to issue a formal apology as what seems a carefully planned reconstruction of his image.
But the fact that he released the video is a brain-melter, in that the idea that the criminal act is also his vehicle for career rehabilitation, and that in the world of football where nothing matters but the football, his method has a certain vile logic to it.
It reminds us yet again, as though we needed it, that in too many places, football trumps everything else, and anyone who thinks that their team’s school stands for the highest level of character, morality and dignity will have to provide written evidence of same, and show their work. This is a new low, and too many people – not just at Oklahoma, but throughout the sport’s diaspora – are very comfortable with it.
But it’s the new deal for people in the industry and those who pay attention to them. As guilty pleasures go, the Joe Mixon story tilts the needle a bit closer to guilty and a bit further from pleasure.
But bowl season starts tomorrow, and those who need to forget what the game is capable of standing for will do so happily. It’s what the game demands, and the game gets what it demands.
In this case, a panoramic view of hell.