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Lay off on Brent Musberger

By  January 5, 2017

Three opinions that define this piece:

1) Joe Mixon is probably not the smartest guy in terms of decision-making. Probably just as I was an idiot at his age, except I didn’t do what he did.

2) Hitting anyone, especially women, is brainless, barbaric and wrong.

3) Generally speaking in society, we give people second chances. If we didn’t, the world we live in would probably have a lot more issues than it already has. Mixon has every right to his.

The Internet needs to lay off on Brent Musberger for his (probably) ill-timed little speech during the Rose Bowl.

Calling for him to retire, such as one USA Today writer did, is a somewhat extreme reaction that attempts to avoid confronting contrarion opinions, to punish those who think differently. Musberger was emphatically not promoting violence. To crucify a man defending a university student who made a bad decision is fair game for criticism itself.

Here’s some background on what happened:

On Monday night during the Rose Bowl, Musberger got himself into trouble. He wished Joe Mixon luck in his likely future NFL career. The young Oklahoma running back was previously suspended for an entire year after punching a woman at a bar. When a video of the punch surfaced weeks ago, the Internet demanded justice.

The whole incident was messy: Mixon accused her group of using a racial slur. The victim’s group accused Mixon of harassing a gay friend. Both of those things are, frankly, totally unacceptable. She lunged at him, or pushed him, and he punched her.

Mixon also received a deferred prison sentence and community service. In the aftermath, he apologized but has mostly declined to talk about the episode.

Musberger made two separate comments on the issue during the broadcast.

First: “We’ve talked to the coaches. They all swear that the young man is doing fine. Folks, he is just one of the best, and let’s hope, given a second chance by Bob Stoops and Oklahoma, let’s hope that this young man makes the most of his chance and goes on to have a career in the National Football League.”

People didn’t take kindly to this:

Musberger didn’t take kindly to the Twitter reaction.

“Apparently, some people were very upset when I wished this young man well at the next level,” Musburger said. “Let me make something perfectly clear. What he did with that young lady was brutal, uncalled-for. He’s apologized. He was tearful. He got a second chance. He got a second chance from Bob Stoops. I happen to pull for people with second chances, O.K.? Let me make it absolutely clear that I hope he has a wonderful career and he teaches people with that brutal, violent video. O.K.? Second down and 9.”

The New York Times’ Victor Mather called it “the kind of empty, upbeat comment announcers make all the time.”

USA Today’s Christine Brennan called for Musberger to resign, writing that he “repeatedly and aggressively minimized a college football player’s brutal attack on a woman, a punch so devastating it broke four bones in her face.”

And “Musburger had no time for you people out there who care about violence against women.”

ESPN’s PR front also made a statement. Stephanie Druley, ESPN Senior Vice President, Events and Studio Production, said in a statement to FOXBusiness.com:

“The initial discussion during the game telecast was an attempt to put everything into context and should have also included the impact on the young woman. Brent followed up in the second half because he wanted to reiterate and clarify how strongly he felt about the horrific actions captured on the recently released video,” Druley added.

Musberger made it clear that Mixon’s actions were brutal and violent. Moreover, I’m not sure Brennan’s comment that he has “no time for you people…who care about violence against women” is fair.

Musberger’s opinion was that people should give Mixon a second chance. Should we lock Joe Mixon away for 100 years? I’m not sure that would solve the problem.

Oklahoma banished the running back Mixon for one year. It wasn’t nearly the punishment many people want for him, but it was a good first step by the university. He continues to deal with the legal ramifications of his decision as well. His reputation will forever be tarnished.

Socially, Joe Mixon has paid a hefty price. Teams will pass on him in the draft. People will walk up to him and remind him of his actions. One can be sure of it.

Mixon and the victim, Amelia Molitor, were both university students at the time of the punch. University students tend to drink a lot, say horrible stuff to each other and do other things that stupid young adults do. It’s a time in life to mature and to try to improve as a human being. In university we’re confronted with why we need to leave immature behaviour behind.

Joe Mixon showed the world that he has a lot of maturing to do. But are we really going to deny him a second chance? Seriously?

I can truthfully and consciously say I stand up for violence against women and minorities. I’ve even done this while others just sat and watched (which is pretty sad).

That millions of people likely tell Mixon every day online what they think of him is deserving. But there is also a double-standard at play that we apply to athletes like Mixon. People around him will forgive his actions because he’s a star athlete. At the same time he’s so much more exposed and vulnerable to the point where he’ll get roasted for any transgression, big or small.

But in a post Ray Rice world it seems like anything is fair game to tear someone down who tries to present a contrarion stance. And in Musberger’s situation it seems unfair to call for his retirement or dismissal.

One thing really stuck with me from Musberger’s speech. It was when he said he “happens to pull for people who get second chances.”

I hope Mixon takes his second change and changes into a better person.

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