NORMAN — Joe Mixon’s punishment is harsh. And I don’t mean the season-long suspension.
The OU freshman tailback was removed from the football team Monday after being charged with one misdemeanor count of an “act resulting in gross injury.” No practice. No spot on the roster. No status with the team.
But that’s a small stigma to overcome compared to what Mixon faces for far beyond a solitary season. He’s the guy who hit the girl.
No plea, no verdict, no court decision of any kind, will change that. Mixon has begun a sentence that will take years to serve. She said something, he said something, she slapped him. All just background noise, no matter the extenuating circumstances. When Mixon slugged Amelia Rae Molitor, he branded himself. And now Mixon lives with the consequences, which will get only worse if the videotape of the incident is released and shows what district attorney Greg Mashburn said it shows.
For as long as he’s a Sooner, Mixon will be the guy who hit the girl. If Mixon ends up at another college, he’ll be the guy who went to Oklahoma and hit the girl. When he goes to the NFL Combine in some February to come, Mixon will be the guy who hit the girl.
That’s why Mashburn kept using the term “against public morals” last Friday when announcing the charge. It’s hard to argue. Four weeks of state debate over whether it’s ever OK to hit a woman didn’t change the fact that a 220-pound football player slugged a coed half his size. No matter how intoxicated or obnoxious she might have been, Mixon found trouble at 2:30 a.m. and stepped into it, not away from it.
So it’s hard to feel sorry for Mixon. The suspension is stout, no doubt. When the district attorney charged Mixon only with a misdemeanor, I thought Mixon might get a half-season banishment. But then I read David Boren’s letter to the editor on The Oklahoman’s editorial Monday page.
“OU seeks to be a role model for other colleges and universities by setting the highest possible standards for players, coaches and staff,” Boren wrote. “Playing on a team teaches student athletes firsthand about teamwork, time management and self-discipline. It should also teach them the importance of personal integrity and tolerance and respect for others.”