By now, I’m sure each and every one of you are aware of the 2014 video of The University of Oklahoma’s running back Joe Mixon’s brutal assault over another OU student. If not, let me give you a loose synopsis. a man weighing 200-plus pounds would punch a woman weighing about 130 pounds so hard in the face that it would break her jaw in four places. On Monday night, the Sooners and Mixon played in the Sugar Bowl against Auburn. And, longtime ESPN broadcaster Brent Musburger would be there to say all the wrong things.
During OU’s 35-19 win over Auburn, Musburger continued to praise Mixon. And then, bring up vague statements regarding the assault of Amelia Molitor inside of a Norman, Oklahoma café. Advocates everywhere held their breath—was this man with this major platform about to use it to condemn and speak out about such an important topic? Musburger mentioned that the video was “troubling to see” before taking a twist for the worst.
“We’ve talked to the coaches. They all swear the young man is doing fine.” This is where I imagine those very same advocates who once held their breath with a hopeful pause rolled their eyes. “Folks, he is just one of the best,” Musburger went on. “And let’s hope, given a second chance by Bob Stoops and Oklahoma, let’s hope that this young man makes the most of his chance and goes on to have a career in the National Football League.”
Let’s hope this man who chose to follow a girl into a café after she pushed him and sucker punch her square in the jaw has a blossoming career? Musburger didn’t even take a second to mention Molitor, her injuries, how she has adjusted since. Or, what might be in her future. Nothing about condemning the actual act of violence against a woman. Not a word about just how tasteless it was that at one point, when Mixon scored a touchdown, his teammates celebrated in the end zone by pretending to punch him. Just talk of second chances and aggressive well-wishes for a man who BROKE A GIRL’S FACE IN FOUR PLACES.
As you can imagine, social media went wild. Here you had a 77-year-old man with a career that takes tons of preparation before the beginning of a game—tons of research into knowing just the right thing to say—making a complete jerk of himself on live television. Just another man who believed that boys will be boys. One preaching the same thing that has been fed to athletes for decades—Be good at what you do. Catch a ball. Run with it. Throw it. Just do anything with a ball as good as you possibly can. And when you decide to punch a girl in the face, we will give you the bare minimum punishment and eventually look the other way.
As they sometimes do, a second chance arose. Musburger would have a chance to redeem himself. “Let me make something perfectly clear…” he started. Again, advocates were ready for an apology. Some semblance of speaking out against assault. But Musburger would show his flexibility by sticking his other foot in his mouth. “What he did with that young lady was brutal, uncalled for.” This is where he should have stopped. Alas… “He’s apologized. He was tearful. He got a second chance… I happen to pull for people with second chances, OK? Let me make it absolutely clear that I hope he has a wonderful career and he teaches people with that brutal, violent video. OK?” Later, Musburger even brought up Coach Art Briles’ case at Baylor and called it a “situation” instead of calling it what it actually was: a gang rape cover up.
Suddenly, it was clear for everyone. Musburger was in full defense of this young man despite having seen the assault on video. Here’s the skinny on it all. We are in a post-Ray Rice world where organizations like the NFL and NCAA are supposedly taking these situations seriously and punishing appropriately. There is video evidence of this guy knocking out a woman and yet we look the other way? We give him a second chance. We suspend him yet allow him to stay on the team with a scholarship during the suspension. And, we wish him the best. We have companies like ESPN who hire these analysts, broadcasters, and public relations people hoping they will say the right things when the cameras are rolling, only to do nothing when they say all the wrong things.
In a moment that ESPN could have used the Joe Mixon story to speak out against assault, they let one of their broadcasters smooth by in supporting the abuser.
The scary part is that Musburger isn’t the only one with these platforms who continually support the abusers. Thus continuing to prove that we have a long way to go with violence against women awareness. Here’s the thing: football is not a right. The second chance Joe Mixon had was not going to jail. The fact that Mixon gets to play football is a privilege, flat out. One he continues to have despite ruining a girl’s face. Musburger’s support of Mixon might not be unprecedented, but it’s horrifying and disgusting all the same.