This one is gonna be rough, so let’s get this out of the way: athletes should never, ever be considered role models. Just because someone has a public platform does not mean they should be looked to by the public (you and me) as examples of how to act. Athletes are just as diverse as anyone else in their actions and opinions, ranging from Colin Kaepernick’s divisive peaceful protest of the national anthem to the philanthropy of Drew Brees’ charitable foundation and Aaron Hernandez’ violent gang activities and murders. Regardless, don’t put them on a pedestal.
But: when people get out of line and engage in violence off the field, they should absolutely be held accountable. Even if those people can throw, catch, or run with a football really well. But the gap between how that should be the case and the reality we live in is stark. The NFL has chosen to overlook off-field idiocy if you were good enough, as with Kansas City Chiefs special teams returner Tyreek Hill (who admitted to strangling and beating his pregnant girlfriend), Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham (who allegedly shoved his girlfriend’s roommate down the stairs of their apartment), and New York Giants kicker Josh Brown (who made written confessions to repeatedly beating, stalking, and harassing his wife).
The appeal in Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon is obvious. Just three running backs in this year’s draft averaged 100+ rushing yards per game and 30+ receiving yards per game - Mixon, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, and Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols. Mixon accomplished that despite weighing 20 pounds more than McCaffrey and 10 more than McNichols.
He’s the modern prototype of what a three-down running back looks like, built in the mold of Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers) and David Johnson (Arizona Cardinals). If not for the multiple flashes of violence in Mixon’s past, he probably gets drafted in the first fifteen picks this year.
You can find a detailed timeline of Mixon’s history here, but I’ve highlighted a few specific episodes below. The important thing to remember is that “breaking a girl’s face” incident isn’t an isolated issue with Mixon. There’s a clear pattern here.
November 2013. The first red flag on Mixon’s history is an altercation during a high school football game. Facing off against rival Antioch, Mixon punched an opposing player in the face and was immediately ejected. The then-five star recruit was barred from playing in the following week’s game against Liberty High School.
That was the start of Mixon’s off-field troubles. During the trial surrounding his infamous assault of a coed (more on that in a minute), her attorney submitted a report from the father of a high school classmate of Mixon’s. In that report, the man identified as Anthony Hernandez claimed:
"I know for a fact he threw my daughter to the ground and hit her. I went to the school and ... they hid him in the office. He got no punishment. The police even came. I was escorted off the campus as if I did something wrong. These are simply the facts, he's a woman beater."
Sure, the veracity of this claim is suspect. It could be as simple as someone having a vendetta against Mixon and wanting to hurt him in court. Or it could be legit and Freedom High School protected their prized five-star football recruit, then successfully kept the story under wraps. It lines up with what else we know about Mixon. Update: Hernandez recently recanted his claims against Mixon, claiming to not have had all the facts when making his original statement. It speaks to Mixon’s character that this was at all believable in the first place.
July 2014. It’s already been written about at length, and I’ll link you to some of the better, more-detailed reports from Mixon’s side here, and the account from the woman he punched, Amelia Molitor, here. This is purely my take on it, so take it for whatever that’s worth, but from what I can tell Mixon and some of his friends were out on the town celebrating his birthday. One of Mixon’s friends made advances on Molitor on Mixon’s behalf, but she and her gay friend ignored them and moved inside a restaurant. Mixon and his group followed them inside where he called Moritor’s friend a slur. Moritor stepped between them and lunged at Mixon, who knocked her unconscious. The video of Mixon’s physical assault on Moritor was recently released.
November 2016. But that wasn’t the last of Mixon’s off-field troubles. Last November, Mixon received a ticket from a parking lot attendant, got upset, and tore it up. That’s understandably frustrating (fines for campus parking tickets can cost $15 to $35, though parking in handicapped lots or fire lanes can run up to $300). But Mixon returned to his car, angry, and threatened to run over the meter maid. The case was turned over to the Cleveland County district attorney’s office, who declined to press charges. Mixon was suspended one game for this episode.
January 2017. Auburn Tigers fans chanted “he hits women” at Mixon at the end of the Allstate Sugar Bowl game in New Orleans. Mixon responded by taunting them and throwing his arms up and down to tell them to get louder.
All this in mind, Mixon has the look of someone who hasn’t learned from his mistakes and has been privileged to not face consequences from them. He’ll still be drafted highly this year and come into a couple million dollars. Mixon will get a featured role in an offense somewhere in the NFL and go on to put up big numbers. He’s a talented player, but his skill in a game has caused people throughout his life to overlook his bad decisions and violent actions.
I’ll let you decide for yourself if Mixon is someone you could support on your favorite sports team. As far as I’m concerned, he shouldn’t be an option for the New Orleans Saints. They can’t afford another fiasco like what Junior Galette unleashed.