By Garth Shanklin
The journalism business isn’t for the feint of heart.
The hours are often long, the pay often little, and the amount of people waiting for you to do something wrong so they have something to complain about is higher than you’d think. Finding people who not only enjoy doing it at the highest levels of the industry but who are also good at it is extremely hard, and if you have some of those people on your staff, you’re set.
ESPN is not one of those places, at least not any more. The Worldwide Leader, faced with mounting costs from rights fees and decreasing subscriber numbers as more and more people cut the cord, parted ways with several key writers and reporters just before the NFL Draft in late April.
No sport was spared, though some were hit harder than others. ESPN trimmed a few basketball writers but absolutely gutted the college basketball and football rooms. They decimated Baseball Tonight, and dropped so much talent from the roster that they now air MLB Network programming on ESPN2. As the old saying goes, if you can’t beat them, then you might as well give up and stop trying completely.
At any rate, those cuts dominated the headlines right up until the draft itself took over, and did it ever take over. From head-scratching trades (why, Chicago?) to stunning selections, the draft had a little bit of everything to keep fans entertained throughout the three-day event.
The second day of those three is the one that shined the spotlight on Cincinnati, when the Bengals chose Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon in the second round. Mixon was suspended from Oklahoma for a season after punching Amelia Molitor in the face at a bar, breaking four of her bones. He entered a “Alford plea” in the case, which according to the Tulsa World means he maintained his innocence while admitting there is enough evidence to prosecute him. The one-year sentence was deferred, Mixon attended mandatory behavioral counseling and completed 100 hours of community service. He was reinstated to the team on February 4, 2015.
Nearly two years later, Mixon again was suspended from the team, this time for one game after reportedly ripping up a ticket and throwing it at the officer.
That incident happened in November 2016, roughly six months before the Bengals drafted Mixon. Several mock drafts had the team taking Mixon well before the actual selection occurred, not only because the team needed help at running back but because the team’s reputation said they’d take a player like Mixon who has off-field issues.
The Bengals have done a lot of that in the past, admittedly. Players like Odell Thurman, Chris Henry and even current corner Adam Jones all carried heavy off-field baggage, yet the Bengals took a chance on them anyway. For the longest time, it didn’t work.
Between Marvin Lewis’ arrival in 2004 to the end of 2013, the Bengals had 22 players arrested a total of 32 times. Henry “led” the way with six arrests, while Jones ranks second with three, all of which have came since 2010 and do not include the most recent incident from this past January.
Of the 22 arrested players, only Jones and Andre Smith remain on the Bengals roster, though Smith spent last season in Minnesota and was signed by Cincinnati as a free agent. Prior to his arrest earlier this year, no Bengal had been arrested since March 2014, when fullback Orson Charles was accused of “brandishing a gun in an apparent road rage incident.”
The Bengals have shown in the past that they take chances on players with checkered pasts. Is that a bad thing? In general, don’t people deserve second chances? It may seem like the Bengals are always the team granting those reprieves, but they aren’t.
The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook in the fourth round of the draft. Westbrook also had issues with domestic violence, though his charges were dropped due to a lack of evidence. ESPN’s Todd McShay reported Westbrook was “the only player he’s ever heard of’ who got kicked out of one of the NFL combine interviews.
Up in Cleveland, the Browns drafted Caleb Brantley, a defensive lineman from Florida who is accused of punching a woman in the mouth last month.
The Browns have came out and said they may have to cut their sixth-round pick, depending on what they find.
But still, the Bengals aren’t the only team that takes chances.
Fans in Cincinnati don’t care about Jacksonville or Cleveland, however.
The main concern is what should the team do with Mixon? WCPO called for a boycott of the team, yet continued to write stories about them.
I personally don’t know if Mixon deserves a second chance. You could argue that he already has one, given the incident with the parking ticket.
Some people out there won’t be able to look at Mixon without becoming disgusted with the team. Others have already forgiven him and moved on. There is no right answer on this subject.
The only correct answer is standing by the victim, Amelia Molitor, and making sure her recovery goes as smoothly as possible.
Mixon’s punch changed her life, and his too.
The question now becomes what he does with his chance at redemption.