In the summer of 2014, Amelia Molitor, a 20-year-old student at the University of Oklahoma, got her face smashed in by Joe Mixon, the football team’s prize freshman running back. Mixon’s brutal assault was captured on video — a video which both the police and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops saw before deciding to more or less let Mixon off the hook (Mixon was suspended for his freshman season, and got a legal slap on the wrist).
Molitor was subsequently hounded mercilessly by Oklahoma football fans, apparently for slamming her face into Mixon’s fist, thus endangering his chances of bringing glory to the team on the field. (The full story is here.)
Two and a half years later, the story became national news when, after a long legal battle, a court ordered the video of the assault to be released to the media. (It’s here. Warning: It’s very disturbing). Once the video was available, it set off a firestorm of protest.
That was the situation when, a couple of weeks later, Oklahoma played in the Sugar Bowl. Longtime broadcaster Brent Musburger did the play by play of the game for ABC/ESPN. During the first half, Musburger brought up the controversy. After describing the video as “very troubling to see” he said this:
“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.”
This caused something of an explosion on social media. Some ESPN honchos appear to have a had a little chat with their employee at halftime, because in the third quarter Musburger returned to the issue:
“Apparently, some people were very upset when I wished this young man well at the next level. 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, OK? Let me make it absolutely clear that I hope he has a wonderful career and he teaches people with that brutal, violent video. OK? Second down and 9.”
The next day, Christine Brennan wrote a column for USA TODAY calling on Musburger to quit. Today he did.
I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Brennan, who works in the still almost all-male world of high profile sports journalism, to write what she did about her long-time colleague. It was a brave thing to do, and it seems to have made a difference.