As you probably have read, University of Oklahoma freshman star football recruit Joe Mixon has been charged with misdemeanor assault and has been suspended from the university’s football team for the upcoming season for his role in an altercation at a local restaurant. That is the sanitized way of saying that Mixon hit a woman, either in self-defense or not, then left the scene as she lay motionless.

It might be helpful to refer to the police affidavit at the end of the linked article before reading the rest of this posting.

What jumped out at me from the police report was this description of the woman’s injuries:  “The female victim was transported to the Norman Regional Hospital where she was found to have  a fractured jaw, fractured cheek, fractured sinus and fractured orbit which caused a hematoma on the left eye.”

So, what we have is a police report that purports to convey accurately what a surveillance tape capturing the events allegedly shows. Mixon has been charged, but of course enjoys the presumption of innocence throughout the judicial process.

I would expect that there will emerge a distinct difference in the recollections and statements of the participants and witnesses. The young woman has alleged, according to the police, that Mixon precipitated the events by engaging in homophobic slurs directed against a friend of hers at the restaurant. On the other hand, Mixon’s attorney has asserted that the young woman engaged in racial slurs against Mixon.

Mixon’s attorney made the following statement: “As we have maintained from the beginning, it is our belief that Joe reacted instinctively after being racially slurred and physically assaulted by a highly intoxicated young woman and her male friend. We strongly disagree with the series of events as portrayed by Norman PD. Justice knows no gender bias and we do not believe that Joe’s actions were criminal in nature.”

Here is the relevant portion of the police report, based on the surveillance tape:

“While in the business the female victim (5’06” tall and 130 pounds) pushed Joe Mixon (6’02” and 210 pounds). He then lunged at her in an aggressive manner, leading with his head and with his right fist clenched by his side. The victim reacted by slapping Joe Mixon, with an open hand, near his left ear. He then struck her on the left side of her face with his closed right fist, knocking her into a table top and then to the ground where she laid motionless. Joe Mixon then left the scene.”

The University of Oklahoma has suspended Mixon for the upcoming football season, and has revoked his athletic scholarship, although the school has noted that Mixon remains eligible for regular student financial aid. It is important to note that courts generally have held that participation in intercollegiate athletics is a privilege and not a right.

I can’t help but compare Mixon’s situation with that of NFL player Ray Rice. I wrote recently for the ISLE website that I thought the NFL two-game suspension of Rice was not strong enough, even considering several factors that a reasonable person could view as mitigating. I still feel that way. I understand that Rice will forfeit hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of his two-game suspension, but Rice has continued to practice and play in preseason events with his team (the Baltimore Ravens) and he remains eligible for the vast majority of the season and any playoff contests. His career path has not been altered significantly.

Contrast that with OU’s suspension of Mixon. Yes, the young man could decide to transfer to another big-time program, as has been suggested by college football analysts, but a season-long suspension is, in my view, a serious penalty, as befits a significant act of violence against a woman. Further, I think it is insignificant whether the woman shouted obscenities or racial epithets at Mixon, or whether she pushed him and slapped him. Mixon outweighs her by 80 pounds and is no doubt in superb physical condition.

Perhaps we will learn of the existence of a deadly weapon in the women’s possession that could give rise on Mixon’s part to a valid claim of self defense. I am prepared to accept Mixon’s attorney’s claim that Mixon acted instinctively. That’s the problem. His instinct was to strike a much smaller woman who presented no real physical threat to him, unless of course she had a weapon. That is not the appropriate instinct, in my view.

Further, if convicted, Mixon will likely face additional penalties from OU, and of course from the court. I understand the anger of those who have suggested online that Mixon has not been adequately punished, but again, the judicial process must run its course. OU has acted to address this matter promptly and purposefully based on the available information, I think, in stark contrast to the NFL in its dealings with Ray Rice.

What do you think? Is OU’s response too tough, too lenient, or just fine with you?

I’m interested in learning your thoughts. Thanks.

1 Comment » for Joe Mixon and the University of Oklahoma: Appropriate Penalty for Violence Against a Woman?
  1. Mike says:

    Disclaimer: I’m an OU graduate and a football fan.

    I think you are correct in your assessment of the severity of the punishment. I do think OU would have been perfectly justified in kicking Mixon off the team, and had it done so I would have likely applauded the decision. It appears that he’s making the most of his second chance, though, and has kept his nose clean in the two years since.

    The pending lawsuit in the Northern District of California makes an interesting Conflicts of Law hypo, by the way.