Now we know. Joe Mixon is sorry.
And with that, Oklahoma’s mercurial phenom can put this whole sorry episode behind him, almost.
In a letter he wrote that was published on The Oklahoman’s website on Tuesday, Mixon finally provided the words we’ve all wanted to hear since he smashed Amelia Molitor’s face in on his birthday back on July 25, 2014.
“For the last two years, my lawyers have advised me against speaking publicly about an incident that occurred very shortly after I arrived in Norman,” Mixon wrote. “Today, I want to say what everyone deserves to hear from me about this matter: I am sorry.”
To his further credit, Mixon didn’t just stand sheepishly in the corner repeating a phrase ordered by his elders. He was specific.
“I apologize to Amelia Molitor and the friends who were with her that night,” he wrote. “I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the University of Oklahoma, and its fans. I apologize to my family and friends. I realize I let a lot of people down. I apologize to all those I disappointed or hurt.”
As Mixon wrote, his silence was on the advice of legal counsel. He was charged with a misdemeanor assault charge of acts resulting in gross injury, received a deferred sentence, served 100 hours community service and got counseling. He was removed from the team and from all team activities for the entire fall 2014 semester, but was allowed to stay in school. He was allowed to enter an Alford plea, which let him legally contest the charge while admitting the prosecution likely could prove the charge.
But other than a tepid statement from his attorney, Kevin Finlay, on Oct. 30, 2014, the day he entered the Alford plea — “Joe does not want to be a further distraction to his family, friends, teammates, and the University of Oklahoma. … Joe would like to apologize to everyone affected by this unfortunate chain of events.” — Mixon never really apologized.
The timing of Mixon’s apology serves two purposes.
First, a civil suit Molitor filed accusing Mixon of negligence, willful and wanton misconduct and intentional infliction of emotional distress was reduced on Monday by an Oklahoma City federal judge to the latter claim only. Now that two of the three claims have been dismissed, any potential punitive financial penalties Mixon would face are significantly reduced.
A previous apology and admission of guilt might have hurt his chances of getting any of the claims dismissed.
And second, it is widely presumed that Mixon will soon submit his paperwork for an evaluation from the NFL College Advisory Committee and intends to leave school early and will apply for the NFL Draft. OU’s regular season concludes on Dec. 3 against Oklahoma State, and the procedures for college underclassmen leaving for the NFL begin immediately afterward.
Saying “I’m sorry” and acknowledging his guilt — “she slapped me, and I reacted poorly — I struck her,” he wrote in the statement — allows Mixon to begin the process of earning a spot in the NFL. Now whichever NFL team drafts him can address any public criticism of their choice by saying, “Hey, the kid admitted what he did, and he said he was sorry.”
Before Tuesday, that was not on the table for discussion. Here’s a column a wrote for the Tulsa World in February 2015 on the importance of a Mixon apology.
Mixon said in the letter he was not drinking on the night of his 18th birthday and, in fact, has never had a drink in his life. He also said when tensions escalated, some of his teammates were wise enough to leave the scene, but he did not, and for that he was also sorry.
And he acknowledged another “more recent incident on campus” — he allegedly tore up a parking ticket, berated the campus parking attendant, threw the torn ticket in the attendant’s face and even threatened the attendant with his vehicle — and said he doesn’t want others to see him as an “angry person.”
“I believe that, over time, I can prove that my past mistakes do not represent who I really am,” he wrote. “I promise everyone willing to give me the chance that I will work harder and continue to better myself as an individual and community member. I want to be a role model on and off the field.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard on The Franchise Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. every weekday with co-host Lauren Rew and most mornings on The Franchise in Oklahoma City. Listen on fm107.9, am1270 on the 107.7 Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page.