The NFL, its teams, the media, and the public shouldn’t need to see what domestic violence looks like in order to be appalled by it. But as the NFL, its teams, the media, and the public learned in September 2014, knowing that something happened and seeing it happen are two very different things.
Some believe Ravens running back Ray Rice never got a second chance in the NFL because he simply wasn’t very good when he last played. Given the tailbacks who have gotten tryouts and roster spots in the past two offseason (when up to 90 jobs per team are available), the more likely explanation is that no one wanted to suffer through the scrutiny that would result from offering employment to a man who was seen knocking a woman out on video.
Former Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon delivered a devastating blow to a female in late 2014, breaking multiple bones in her face. Knowing it occurred it troubling; seeing it becomes mortifying.
If/when an NFL team provides employment to Mixon, that video will be played repeatedly in the team’s local market. The media will revisit the issue, chastising the team for giving safe harbor to a man who engaged in an undeniably despicable act. And while some will claim Mixon deserves a second chance, others will point out that playing in the NFL is a privilege not a right, and that Mixon necessarily would be taking a job that could go to a player who hasn’t committed such a heinous act.
The video remains the difference. With Chiefs running back/receiver/kick returner Tyreek Hill, it’s known that he pleaded guilty to assaulting his pregnant girlfriend. But because there’s no video of the crime, Hill wasn’t disqualified from NFL employment. With Mixon, the video potentially blocks him from playing pro football.
Ultimately, it takes only one team to take a flier on Mixon with a low-round pick and a stern admonition that one false move will result in the termination of his employment. And if one team with needs at the tailback position concludes that Mixon could be a difference maker and believes that enough equity has been compiled locally to withstand the P.R. storm that would result from drafting him, Mixon will at least get a chance to prove himself in the NFL.
The video complicate the analysis, and it ultimately could cause every team to steer clear of Mixon — especially if the NFL subtly (or otherwise) gets the word out to its 32 teams that Mixon should be avoided.
Of course, that would be collusion. It also wouldn’t be the first time collusion has occurred. Indeed, some believe that Rice never got a second chance because the NFL made it clear that he wouldn’t be getting one.