Mac Engel

Sooners whiffed on Mixon, who is coming to the NFL

Former Oklahoma players Joe Mixon, left, and Adrian Peterson, right, talk during the Sooners’ spring game on April 8. Mixon is the latest complicated example of domestic violence abusers who was granted a second chance.
Former Oklahoma players Joe Mixon, left, and Adrian Peterson, right, talk during the Sooners’ spring game on April 8. Mixon is the latest complicated example of domestic violence abusers who was granted a second chance. AP

This year’s version of Ezekiel Elliott will be there when the Dallas Cowboys select with the 28th overall pick. Sorry, Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey, the best running back in this year’s NFL draft is Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon.

The Cowboys don’t need him, but the team picking next, the Green Bay Packers, does. So too do a bunch of teams picking before these franchises.

Which NFL GM is going to have the guts to select the best running back in the upcoming draft and willingly incur the wrath of so many? Because the team that does better have a PR plan, and the NFL has to put something in place for the next Joe Mixon, Tyreek Hill, Greg Hardy or Ray Rice.

Mixon is sport’s latest high-profile example of a young man who received another chance at fame and money because he is good at ball, despite frightening evidence of assaulting a woman. How Oklahoma and football coach Bob Stoops handled this situation was shameful.

It is implausible to think that the NFL, or society, will cast domestic violence abusers on a tanker ship in the middle of the Pacific, or build a wall to keep them out. Walls apparently take a long time to build these days, especially when you can’t find the money for it.

If we are not to exclude these people from society, and the NFL and the other leagues and colleges want them, there has to be something more than the pathetic precedent set by Stoops and the Sooners, or the Cowboys with Hardy. A plan needs not be reactionary but proactive.

Brenda Tracy is a rape survivor who has become a highly visible advocate for rape and domestic violence victims. She has spoken to college sports teams all over the United States, including Baylor.

“What do we do with the perps?” she asked me rhetorically. “It’s a good question and it’s not something I spend a ton of time thinking about or discussing. For me, when we talk about this idea of ‘second chance,’ I think, ‘Why? What defines a second chance? Does that only mean we let them go to the NFL? Is that the only thing we do in life?’

“Because the question is right — what do we do with them?”

There are choices. This week, Indiana University went to the extreme measure of banning all student-athletes from participating if they have a history of sexual or domestic violence. It’s a similar ban the SEC put in effect on potential transfer students.

What Oklahoma did with Mixon was similar to what the NFL did to Hardy, which was basically not allow them to play football for a year. It was not until the video of Mixon punching Euless Trinity grad Amelia Molitor was made available to the public by an Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling last year that Coach Stoops admit they didn’t handle it right.

Funny how that works.

Molitor is lucky that punch didn’t kill her.

Predictably, this week Mixon and Molitor settled her lawsuit and came to an “amicable” agreement. Terms were not disclosed, meaning there is a chance money was exchanged for this dismissal.

Now he is the NFL’s problem.

It was last year when former Oklahoma State running back Tyreek Hill was drafted in the fifth round by the Kansas City Chiefs even though he had assaulted his pregnant girlfriend when he was in Stillwater. OSU immediately dropped Hill, who was given three years’ probation and finished his college career at Division II West Alabama.

The Chiefs received considerable criticism for drafting Hill, but boos magically turned to cheers when he was named an All-Pro as a rookie. Hill was good at scoring touchdowns.

One Chiefs executive told me they took Hill with their eyes wide open only because they believed Hill realized he had made a big mistake and this was his last chance. The same executive told me the team was not fooling themselves about this player; that they know another bad phone call can come.

In fear of such a call, some NFL franchises have taken Mixon off their board, but a team will take him in hopes they can get a deal and a real player. Since this is the norm, “second chances” and “rehabbing” can’t be hollow lollipops.

“I would think counseling or some sort of treatment program, because I think unless you really address the issues of why they are this way I don’t know how they could possibly change it,” Tracy said.

The Cowboys half-tried to do this with Hardy, but he blew everything off other than the games. BTW — Hardy is trying his hand at the new spring football league these days in West Virginia.

The NFL, the NFLPA and the rest of these leagues and conferences have to agree on a minimum set of standards for guys like Mixon, or Hill. And there can be no more chances for these offenders.

Tracy, for one, is not someone who believes such offenders can change their behaviors.

“Other people choose to act in a nonviolent way,” Tracy said. “People try to downplay it as accidents, or miscommunication, or drunken sex.”

Those are all tired excuses to explain deplorable behavior.

Since society has determined that sports has value, and we are not going to ban offenders from this country, an applicable solution needs to created and enacted.

Because Joe Mixon is coming, and there needs to be more than the hope that nothing goes wrong.

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