In late December, the video of Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon violently punching a woman in the face in 2014 went public. The video was incredibly graphic, as we already knew it would be, and upset many people.
OU coach Bob Stoops later told reporters that if Mixon had punched a woman in 2016 and not 2014, he would’ve been dismissed. Mixon’s slated to play in Monday’s Sugar Bowl against Auburn anyway.
Mixon punched the woman just months after signing with OU as one of the top recruits in the country. Mixon took a plea agreement later that year, which allowed him to legally maintain innocence while acknowledging prosecutors had the evidence to convict him of misdemeanor assault. His victim filed a civil lawsuit against him in July.
OU suspended Mixon for the entire 2014 season but reinstated him for 2015. He’s played the last two years for the Sooners.
The immediate reaction I had when seeing this video was: “It’s Ray Rice all over again.”
The former NFL running back punched his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, and knocked her unconscious in an elevator in 2014. We see how public video can change both the perception, and in Rice’s story, the punishment for an act of violence against a woman.
After an initial review of Rice’s case, NFL commissioner Rodger Goodell suspended Rice for two games. The NFL reportedly already knew what the tape showed.
But in Sept. 2014, the video leaked publicly. Rice earned an indefinite suspension and his release from the Ravens. He hasn’t been on an NFL roster since, let alone taken a carry.
After the video, Goodell claimed Rice’s account was “inconsistent” with what the video showed. But a report later claimed Rice had given the league a truthful and thorough account of the incident during a June meeting that included Rice, Palmer, and Goodell.
If TMZ didn’t release that elevator video, that two-game suspension would have stood. Rice, a three-time Pro Bowler, would probably still be in the league.
Neither the Rice story nor the Mixon story is a case where the video proved a claim to be true. We already knew these claims were true before we saw them happening.
(For an example of a video that served as new evidence rather than merely visual confirmation of a known event, when video went public in 2015 of Florida State quarterback Deandre Johnson punching a woman, the team quickly dismissed him. Before the claim was proved, he’d been under an indefinite suspension.)
We already knew what Mixon’s video looked like before we saw it.
OU media members were shown the video two years before it went public and months before Mixon’s reinstatement. The way it was described by some outlets in Norman was disturbing, but the description matches the footage shown in the video exactly:
After a brief discussion, Mixon looks as if he's going to walk away, but looks like he says something as he turns. Molitor then pushes Mixon, setting off a quick series of events that were over in three seconds. Mixon reacts to the push by lunging at Molitor with a closed fist at his side. She reacts by slapping Mixon near where his jaw and neck meet on his left side.
Then the punch.
Mixon lands a devastating right hook that knocks Molitor off her feet. First she hits the table on her left ear, then falls to the ground, where she lays still.
Mixon walks out of the frame toward the front of the restaurant and is not seen again.
Did we really need to see the video to gather what happened here?
OU had the chance to send a message. Keeping a prized recruit took precedent.
His year off was a rare redshirt for a five-star, but a redshirt. Mixon played both in 2015 and this season, in which he’s rushed for 1,183 yards and eight touchdowns. He leads the Big 12 champion Sooners in rushing.
In 2016, Mixon publicly apologized and pledged to help steer others away from making the same choice he made. The decision to release the video on Dec. 16 was his, albeit after a court order for it to be made public. Stoops has indicated he regrets his decision to only suspend the running back. But OU itself stood by its one-year suspension, even after the video was released.
Statement from the University of Oklahoma on the Joe Mixon video: pic.twitter.com/T0bbh5p6xq— Spenser Davis (@Davis_Spenser) December 16, 2016
According to ESPN, the woman suffered four broken bones in her face, her jaw had to be wired shut, and she was without feeling on the left side of her face for months.
Meanwhile, the man who did that to her has played for two full seasons in a Sooner uniform. OU made it to the Playoff last season, won the Big 12 this year and last, and got a Sugar Bowl bid this year, and Mixon’s on-field presence helped them get there.
Public video of domestic violence cases has produced some positives.
These videos serve a sobering and real depiction of domestic violence and violence against women. It’s a real societal problem, one with two million injuries and 1,300 deaths each year as a result.
A lot of times, video evidence can change the circumstances of these incidents, whether the perpetrators were criminally charged.
Oklahoma knew the Mixon video was out there and knew what was on it: a 200-pound man punching a woman in the face.