Two years ago, Joe Mixon punched a female student so hard that he broke four bones in her face. She needed her jaw to be wired shut. The feeling on the left side of her face did not return for months.
These are facts. They have never been disputed, by the star Oklahoma running back or the woman he punched, fellow OU student Amelia Molitor. And these facts should have been all we needed, enough to trigger horror and outrage, not only at Mixon's actions but also at the way Oklahoma responded.
Mixon served a one-year suspension, which was basically just a redshirt season. Molitor went without eating solid food, or laughing, or smiling, as her face healed. He still got to be Joe Mixon, Sooners scholarship athlete. She became another version of herself entirely, temporarily disfigured, broken and, in some cases around campus, blamed.
A surveillance video showing Mixon throwing the punch existed, although it took years of wrangling in court for it to be released to the public. But key decision-makers at the school -- namely, coach Bob Stoops, athletic director Joe Castiglione and school President David Boren -- had seen the tape, and they still decided a one-year suspension was sufficient.
When the tape came out on Friday, more condemnation followed, as if the words Molitor had spoken meant nothing without the actual video proof that she got punched so hard that her face smashed against a table and broke.
But should it really take a video to reinforce the idea that what Mixon did has no place in our society? The video gave us the truth in a way that words cannot: visceral, unvarnished, ugly. Cameras don't lie.
Words? Well, they can be twisted. They can be misinterpreted. They can be wrong. In cases involving violence against women, they're too often treated as just words on the pages of a police report, with skepticism as the first reaction to an accusation.
This is just one of the many reasons so many victims fail to report crimes against them. Their words will be parsed, questioned, analyzed and sometimes thrown back at them. These words too often result in name-calling, anger, nastiness, blame and ostracism. That sort of hostility is what Molitor encountered, even though she had facts on her side.
Mixon hit Molitor on July 25, 2014, just one day after the NFL suspended Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice two games for punching his then-fiancée and dragging her body out of an elevator. The details were sickening on their own. But the weak suspension only undermined the NFL's stance given the severity of what Rice did, therefore undermining any woman who has been a victim of domestic violence.
A video of Rice's punch existed and became public that September. Though Rice's actions in that elevator had been widely reported, the video presented a devastating picture that words simply could not. The Ravens cut Rice and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. Although he has since been reinstated, Rice has not played another down in the NFL because that video was released.
The following summer, former Florida State quarterback De'Andre Johnson was suspended indefinitely after he was arrested for allegedly punching a woman at a bar in Tallahassee, Florida. When video surfaced showing Johnson throwing the punch, Florida State kicked him off the team. He has since committed to play for coach Lane Kiffin at Florida Atlantic.
Then, earlier this year, video surfaced showing then-incoming Mississippi State freshman Jeffery Simmons beating a woman during a fight. Mississippi State allowed Simmons to join the football team anyway.
Mixon, Johnson and Simmons are still enjoying the opportunity to play football on scholarship, sending a message over and over again that implies violence against women will be tolerated.
What has made the Mixon case so hard to believe is the way Oklahoma administrators reacted. The video release crystallizes that even more.
Stoops, Castiglione and Boren had all the facts in front of them after Mixon's arrest. Mixon pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and didn't serve any prison time; he's currently facing a civil suit from Molitor. That should have been enough to warrant a dismissal from the team. They'd seen the words and the video, a double whammy of evidence that they somehow stomached enough to allow Mixon to keep his place on the team.
They have been roundly criticized for that choice, especially over the past 36 hours. But really, they shouldn't have needed a video to tell them that Mixon lost the privilege to represent their institution of higher learning as soon as he punched Molitor. In a statement released Friday, the university said, "Mr. Mixon has apologized for his actions, and the university hopes that it is an indication that he has learned from his mistakes. We are an educational institution, where we hope young people will learn from their mistakes and chart a better future course."
Yes, Oklahoma is an educational institution, but playing football is not a right, and neither is playing football on scholarship. After rushing for 1,183 yards and scoring 13 touchdowns, Mixon emerged this year as a star and a face of the Oklahoma football program, and of the school itself. Now Mixon and Sooners supporters will head for New Orleans and the Allstate Sugar Bowl, with another top-10 finish there for the taking.
So if you're an Oklahoma fan, what exactly are you cheering for?