In calling the game, Musburger expressed his feelings about the incident in which Mixon, one of the top running backs in the country, knocked out Amelia Molitor in an off-campus restaurant. Mixon went through the criminal process, sat out a season and recently apologized to Molitor. But video of the punch, released by Mixon’s attorney last month after an order by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, is deeply disturbing.
Musburger praised the university for giving Mixon another chance and expressed his hopes about Mixon’s NFL future.
“Very troubling to see it,” the 77-year-old veteran broadcaster said. “But they all swear the young man is doing fine. Folks, he is one of the best and let’s hope given a second chance from Bob Stoops and Oklahoma, let’s hope this young man makes the most of his second chance and goes on to have a career in the National Football League.”
The response was swift and negative on social media.
Musburger attempted to respond to the online critics on the telecast, saying: “What he did with that young lady was brutal, uncalled for,” Musburger said. “He 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, okay. Let me make it absolutely clear. I hope he has a wonderful career and he teaches people with that brutal, violent video. Okay?”
ESPN defended Musburger and its coverage of Mixon but pointed out that the initial conversation during the game should have “included the impact on the young woman.”
“We have covered this sensitive and important topic aggressively across our entities and will continue to do so,” Stephanie Druley, senior vice president for events and studio production, said in an email to The Post. “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.”
Musburger seems to have fallen short of the goals he described for his broadcast in a conference call last week.
“It certainly will be mentioned, but I have a theory to things like this and I follow it. You get to it early and you get behind it and then you concentrate on the ballgame that’s at hand,” he told reporters. “Ninety-eight or ninety-nine percent of the people watching will have seen that video. They do not want to be beaten over the head with it by the time they come to the ballgame. We’ve got a ballgame in front of us. I’m pulling for the young man. I hope he gets a chance in the National Football League. I hope he learned a very valuable lesson, and I hope he passes it along to a lot of athletes that are as talented as he is: Under no circumstance can you overreact in the manner he did.”
Mixon was reminded of the incident by fans, who chanted “he hit a woman” during the game and by teammates who pretended to punch him as they celebrated the victory.
So much for putting distance between himself and the incident, as he tried to do in a Dec. 23 news conference. “I take full responsibility for what happened,” he said in his first public comments since the incident, days after video of his actions was released. “It’s never okay to hit a woman. Never. I’ll preach that to anybody.”
Mixon addressed Molitor directly and apologized to Stoops, Oklahoma President David Boren, Athletic Director Joe Castiglione, his teammates and family.
“I’m just here to apologize to Ms. Molitor,” Mixon said before adding, “I let a lot of people down . . . I’m here to apologize to everyone affected.”
It was a good start, but it probably won’t take care of the issue. Mixon will, as Musburger pointed out, be a hot prospect for NFL teams despite the league’s problems handling violence against women in the past. Mixon, 20, can choose to continue to play college football, hoping the incident recedes and that his draft stock will be unharmed.
The NFL, which revamped its domestic violence policy after the 2014 crisis triggered by the Ray Rice and Greg Hardy incidents, has no penalties for incoming players who have had past incidents but can treat them as past offenders if there are future incidents.
Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs is a prime example. The rookie, a fifth-round draft pick, pleaded guilty last summer to domestic abuse by strangulation stemming from a 2014 incident in which he choked and punched his pregnant girlfriend in the stomach. He was given three years probation and has apologized. In addition, he supports his son, who was unharmed. Although Chiefs fans were initially wary, they have come to accept him as his reputation as a game-changer has grown.
Hill, though, never had to play in a big-time college bowl game. His moment in the national spotlight will come in the NFL playoffs next week.