It’s probably time to pay attention when a United States senator goes out of her way to castigate a prominent university football coach while urging real leaders in “big-time sports” to “do a soul search on character.”
That coach is Bob Stoops, head of the University of Oklahoma Sooners, and the senator is Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, a Democrat and a former sex crimes prosecutor, who wrote recently about how surprised she was that Stoops had been selected by some Division I coaches as someone they would want their “sons” to play for.
The reason she was stunned, according to her widely circulated article in USA Today, was because Stoops had welcomed to his football program University of Missouri transfer Dorial Green-Beckham, nicknamed DGB. DGB was kicked off the Missouri Tigers football team after he allegedly pushed a woman down some stairs, McCaskill points out. No charges were filed in the case because the woman, according to McCaskill’s article, didn’t cooperate with police or prosecutors.
OU petitioned the NCAA to rule DGB eligible this year on grounds that seem to intentionally ignore the gory details of the case, but it was denied, and it’s unclear whether he will ever play for the Sooners or any college football program again.
In her article, McCaskill asks rhetorically, “But for Stoops to get the most votes from his fellow coaches as the coach they wanted to influence their sons?” She goes on to argue:
Unfortunately, that says it all. It is time for real leaders in the world of big-time sports to do a soul search on character. Every decision they make reflects on them in ways that a won/loss record never will.
McCaskill didn’t but could have also mentioned how Stoops has handled the case of 18-year-old Joe Mixon, an OU player who was caught on videotape July 25 hitting a woman in the face and fracturing her jaw. Mixon was charged with the misdemeanor crime of “an act resulting in a gross injury” and the university, with Stoops’ apparent agreement, suspended him for only one year from the team. Mixon has since been seen hanging out with the team. Remember, Mixon’s violence was caught on a tape that was viewed by media members, and he and his attorney have not disputed the video evidence.
All this comes at a time when NFL players like Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson have been kicked off their teams for violent actions. Rice was kicked off the Baltimore Ravens after a new tape surfaced showing him knocking out his fiancé with a violent fist jab. Peterson, a former OU player coached by none other than Bob Stoops, was kicked off the Minnesota Vikings after it was learned he whipped his 4-year-old son with a tree switch, leaving behind cuts and bruising.
“Got him in the nuts once I noticed,” Peterson apparently texted the boy’s mother, according to one article. Isn’t that sexual abuse as well? What if Peterson had struck a 4-year-old girl on her genitalia? Wouldn’t he be charged with a sex crime? Nonetheless, Peterson has been charged with “reckless or negligent injury to a child” in Texas where the beating occurred.
Those people who try to defend people like Stoops, Mixon and Peterson forget that coaches and star athletes on major college and professional teams serve as role models, a standard trope that is promoted through, among other things, jersey sales, television appearances and commercial endorsements. The media is culpable as well by creating a worship culture around star athletes. They make their money, too. Everyone gets their cut, except the victims of violence.
McCaskill does us all a great service for bringing out into the open and arguing against the violent behavior permeating what she calls big-time sports. It’s a sick culture—and that includes many sports fans—that tolerates this violence or dismisses it with a shrug or doesn’t remove the offenders from their pedestals.
(Mixon should be banned from ever playing football at OU and, if legally possible, expelled permanently from the university if he is convicted in the case. If that sensible decision doesn’t happen soon then Stoops and OU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione should be fired or allowed to resign, and Boren should retire.)
The fact suspended University of Oklahoma football player Joe Mixon still gets to hang out with the team despite the serious criminal charge against him is an embarrassment for OU and the entire state.
It sends a message that we condone violence against women here, and it comes at a time when the national media is also focusing on Ray Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens football player caught on video knocking out his then fiancé by a fist blow to her face.
The 18-year-old Mixon faces a misdemeanor charge of an “act resulting in a gross injury” after he allegedly hit a fellow 20-year-old female student in the face at a Norman restaurant on July 25. Like the Rice case, there is a video of the incident, which has been viewed by reporters.
According to one media report, a police affidavit claims Mixon "struck her on the left side of her face with his closed right first, knocking her into a table top and then to the ground where she laid motionless." Another police document, according to the same report, outlines how the young woman was diagnosed with a “fractured jaw, fractured cheek bone, fractured sinus and fractured orbit which caused a hemotoma on the left eye.”
Mixon has been suspended from the football team for one year by the university, a decision which I have argued in another post was basically siding with him in the case and ignoring the growing evidence that football breeds, promotes and condones violent behavior among its participants, especially violence directed against women.
Unfortunately, OU President David Boren was involved in the decision to only suspend Mixon for one year, and he’s apparently looking the other way as the university’s football program led by coach Bob Stoops continues to coddle him.
On Thursday, according to media reports, Mixon was with OU football players at a pep rally before Saturday’s game against the University of Tennessee. A photograph shows him surrounded by team players, who apparently are not overly concerned about the allegation against Mixon.
Let’s be clear: All this is reprehensible. The fact Mixon is still connected to the team absolutely sends a message the university condones violence against women. It is a violation of everything a university should stand for. It also opens up OU and state taxpayers even more to legal action. It’s an embarrassment for the entire state.
Mixon should be banned from ever playing football at OU and, if legally possible, expelled permanently from the university if he is convicted in the case. If that sensible decision doesn’t happen soon then Stoops and OU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione should be fired or allowed to resign, and Boren should retire.
The fact that some 18-year-old wannabe college football player, accused of a violent crime, is apparently more important than the reputation of the state’s leading research university is a disgusting spectacle that should be difficult to endure for everyone here, but especially for educators in the state.
This is exactly how and why violence against women in our culture is perpetuated.
The Republican response here to the decision by the federal government to deny Oklahoma a continued waiver for provisions of the No Child Left Behind program is about as rote and hollow as teaching to the test.
The federal Education Department made the decision, which could impact how some $29 million in federal money gets spent in state schools, because the state legislature, with Gov. Mary Fallin’s approval, repealed the Common Core standards without replacing them with new standards.
State legislators and the governor impulsively repealed the academic standards for schools supposedly because of over-hyped federal intrusion and then didn’t replace them right away with new standards, which could have prevented the mess. The federal government then made an appropriate and reasoned decision to ensure there are some standards in the state’s schools tied to federal money.
What’s more, consider that the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program was an initiative passed in Congress with the full backing and support of President George W. Bush, a Republican. Bush signed NCLB into law in 2002.
But Republicans here won’t let these basic facts get into their way. Their political strategy, which has become not only tiresome by also extremely ineffective, is to demonize President Barack Obama and hope voters here don’t pay attention to the details.
For example, in a prepared statement, Fallin said:
It is outrageous that President Obama and Washington bureaucrats are trying to dictate how Oklahoma schools spend education dollars. Because of overwhelming opposition from Oklahoma parents and voters to Common Core, Washington is now acting to punish us. This is one more example of an out-of-control presidency that places a politicized Washington agenda over the well-being of Oklahoma students.
Oklahoma Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman, a Sapulpa Republican, weighed in with the anti-Obama rhetoric as well:
President Obama and the United States Department of Education have chosen to place politics ahead of the well-being of Oklahomans. Our education reform efforts have been squarely focused on ushering in higher standards and empowering parents with choice and more ability to direct their children’s education. Unfortunately, the President and Washington bureaucrats have responded with a decision that attempts to place additional burdens on schools.
Any logical person would probably surmise that Obama has more important issues to deal with than some state legislature and governor that makes an impulsive decision to do away with academic standards in schools without specific replacement. Fallin’s statement that “Washington is now acting to punish us” is pure hyperbole. The federal government’s response is a rational consequence to an irrational decision.
I’m no fan of NCLB or high-stakes testing, in general, but the failure of politicians, such as Fallin and Bingman, to anticipate the federal response to the repeal of standards was a huge mistake with consequences that were clear at the time. It’s “outrageous,” to use Fallin’s word, they didn’t think it through appropriately.
The okeducationtruths blog has published an excellent post over the impact of the waiver loss and how state leaders knew what was coming. One result, according to the post, is that the official list of schools needing improvement could grow from 400 to 1600. It could also lead to staff cuts at schools, the post notes. In short, it’s another mess in a state known for its radical right-wing politicians, who often replace basic logic with ideology, sweeping generalizations and reductionist sloganeering.
The political question has become whether voters here are waking up to the conservative posturing that creates its own litany of quagmires and problems. Fallin’s approval ratings have dropped, for example. Can Democrat and gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman upset her in the November election? The fact it remains a legitimate question a few weeks outside of the election might be a sign of an important political shift in the state.