Are pro athletes in Philadelphia required to be role models? We've debated this when athletes such as Allen Iverson, Riley Cooper and Charles Barkley have gotten into trouble of one sort or another. The question facing us on the first day of the NFL draft, is this: Are the Philadelphia Eagles required to be role models for the community or is their job simply to focus on drafting players who will help them win more football games?
The test for the Eagles will be administered by star Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon. Mixon, 20, is, according to a consensus of draft experts, an ideal fit for the Eagles and someone with pass-catching skills who would really help second-year quarterback Carson Wentz. He is also someone caught on a security camera at a diner in Oklahoma in 2014, punching a young woman in the face and causing severe damage.
The fact that most people in the Philadelphia area have seen the video and almost everyone else will see it if he is drafted by the Eagles is critical. There is little or no mystery to what happened. Some people have said the major question here is whether Mixon might do it again. They talk about the Eagles' interview process and the excellence of their security team. They speculate about the risk of taking him as a first-round draft pick, but seem to be OK with the football value of taking him in the second or third round. I think these people miss the bigger questions about Mixon that people are processing.
The first is how grievous an act is Mixon punching a woman in the face vs. other acts, such as Michael Vick killing and torturing dogs, Riley Cooper challenging people to a fight at a concert while yelling out the "N-word," and assorted other players with a wide variety of offenses? Maybe because of what we saw of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in a casino elevator, the overall reaction to Mixon has been very negative.
On my show and on sports talk shows I listen to, I've heard few people try to justify Mixon's punch as an act of self-defense or equal rights for women. It's clear in the video that the woman does push at Mixon, but people correctly point out, almost universally, that he could have walked away or just blocked her and then moved away.
The question that follows from this standard is: What has Mixon done to indicate he's sorry over this and move forward on the path of redemption? Not very much. Mixon got a plea deal receiving a one-year deferred sentence that avoided a criminal conviction, and was also ordered to undergo counseling and do 100 hours of community service. He was suspended from playing football for the Sooners for his freshman year.
Of course, you could argue that he did what was required of him after this devastating punch on a woman. However, I don't see any evidence of Mixon publicly showing remorse and trying to make amends. Was the recent settlement with the victim and their joint statements a sincere apology or just a smart, strategic PR ploy?
The final question is, what would happen in the court of public opinion to the Eagles if they draft Mixon? A significant portion of their fan base would support it and say it's a bold move to win games and get closer to a Super Bowl. Some people would become enraged because the video would run almost nonstop on local TV. Many would threaten to never watch the Eagles or buy tickets again.
Of course, it would be a gamble. However, the Eagles would overcome all of it over time. Philadelphia is an Eagles town. So, taking Mixon in the later rounds is very tempting.
But there is a lot to be gained by not drafting him and saying that the Eagles are more than a "win at any cost" type of an organization. They could recognize that the Philadelphia area loves them and that fans want to feel good about wearing their jerseys, watching their games and rooting them on to victory. In the name of those fans, pass on Joe Mixon.