03 January 2017

Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game or Blame Bob Stoops

In the last 48-72 hours, I’ve heard more a ton about Joe Mixon, the University of Oklahoma running back who, in the last month, had a video surface that showed the brutality of a previously adjudicated action- the physical assault of a young woman, Amelia Monitor. I’m sure for many of you, this is the first time you’ve seen that name, which says way more about the way we evaluate assault on women than any of us are really willing to admit, which is another conversation worthy of dissertation work. 

The assault, which happened in 2014, was acted on by the University and the Football team, with Mixon spending the entire 2015 season suspended. Once the suspension was served, Bob Stoops allowed him back on the football team, where he played, pretty much without incident (well not really, but comparatively) for most of the season. But in the same way the video of Ray Rice magnified outrage, once the video of Mixon surfaced, and with the absolute brutality shown in the video, people started calling for Mixon to not be allowed to play, to be punished (again) for the brutality of the action that went misunderstood in the initial punishment phase. Stoops even went as far to say that if he’d known then what he knew now, he’d not have allowed Mixon to return. 

I call shenanigans,  Bob Stoops. 

Why would I call bullshit on Stoops? I mean, he’s a good man, isn’t he? He has the best interests of his players, and more importantly than making good football players, he wants to make them better men. Isn’t that what all coaches want to do? 

Actually, no. Not at all. Coaches want to win, so they don’t get fired.

What would leave me to believe that Stoops would not be interested in making sure that his team wasn’t a place that a domestic abuser might call sanctuary? 

Empirics. I can, without very much thought or work, think of three instances where Bob Stoops seems to have ended up on the wrong side of the domestic abuse conversation: Fred Shannon, Doriel Green Beckham and Dede Westbrook. 

In 2014, the University of Oklahoma Title IX investigation against a player, linebacker Frank Shannon, who was accused of sexual assault of a student. The Title IX investigation found linebacker Frank Shannon responsible for a sexual assault Prosecutors declined to pursue criminal charges in the case, due to witness being unavailable for court (which happens a lot in domestic abuse issues- fear of reprisal is strong, so a lot of the time women will just not speak out- I can only imagine that fame only magnifies the impacts of the patriarchy. Oklahoma suspended Shannon, the team’s leading tackler in 2013, for one year. He returned for his final college season in 2015, to about as much uproar as the pre-video Mixon uproar, which could best be described a intense, yet muted- a few people really cared, but most had no real idea what was going on, and when they heard about, their rage paralleled the intensity of lightning strikes- disappeared as quickly as they appeared but with a fiery rage upon arrival. If I had to guess why Mixon got a year, I can’t imagine it not being tied to this experience. “We let a dude beat a woman’s ass, set him aside for a year and then rode him like a stable animal to success before, why not try that shit again?”  I imagine it may have been said with more subtlety, but I seriously doubt it. 

Doriel Green Beckham was the #1 ranked WR coming out of high school when he arrived at the University of Missouri to play for Gary Pinkel. After he was dismissed from the team, stemming from a litany of issues, ranging from arrests for marijuana, to a dismissed burglary charge to a domestic abuse issue, which he pushed a woman down a flight of stairs. Once he was dismissed from the team, many programs were afraid to reach out and take a chance on DGB. They saw at best, a stoner and at worst, a domestic abuser, both things generally frowned upon in Power 5 Conference football (as well as almost every level and league everywhere). Bob Stoops had no such concerns, going as far as bring DGB to Norman, where, apparently, he just torched OU defensive backs like the last dab before bed, before his off the field issues never allowed him to play a down of football at Oklahoma. All of this happened between DGB’s dismissal and the Opening Day for OU Football 2015, while in all honesty, DGB's ability to enter the draft before playing a down at Oklahoma also had significant relevance...

The need for speed has, on more than one occasion, has allowed Stoops to look in the other direction. This involves a current receiver on the team, Dede Westbrook, whose ascension this season from a receiver filled with potential to a Heisman Trophy Finalist and without question one of the top receivers in the country. The University indicated that, despite their in-depth background search they do on all prospective athletes, and indicated that there were no red flags to indicate that he couldn’t compete for the University of Oklahoma. It’s pretty hard for me to buy that they just missed it: they were recruiting Westbrook the same time DGB was on the OU campus, during his transfer year. They had to know the amount of heat they’d take if this became an issue, they weighed it and just decided it was easier to say nothing because, unless they were doing so well that background research was being done about him, and they could always just deny they knew (brilliant actually, the worst they look is the way they do now, which is incompetent not malicious). 

It occurs to me that their claims were very specifically vague: at this point, it is reasonable to think that OU may have known of Westbrook’s issues, but that domestic abuse, especially if it happened before your time at Oklahoma, might not be disqualifying factor to play football at the University of Oklahoma. It occurred to me that this could have been very specifically problematic- because it allows for the papering over of crimes against women- as long as we don’t see them (read: as long as our inaction can’t be specifically frowned upon) then there’s no issue. It’s not a disqualifying factor. Sexual assault isn't. Pushing a woman down a flight of stair isn’t. Punching a woman in the face isn’t. What’s a little domestic battery of the mother of your children among Sooners?


  1. God damn you're a good writer. This. All of this. "torched OU defensive backs like the last dab before bed" I mean, really.