The city’s Parkway will be showcased as draft activities will be set up and take place over the stretch from the captivating Franklin Institute to the acclaimed Art Museum, with the main stage built at the top of the very steps that Rocky once ascended. The weather forecast looks promising and reportedly everything will be in place for a great event.
Many collegiate football players will have their dreams come true as their names are announced as a draft pick of one of the 32 NFL football teams. Beside the possible booing that could occur with an unpopular Eagles pick and that will inevitably accompany every Cowboys pick, there should be much expression and feelings of joy and happiness and relief taking place over the next several days. While some of the lower draft picks will still have to battle to make their respective teams, just having the opportunity to make the NFL will bring great exhilaration.
That brings me to Joe Mixon. Mixon is an especially gifted running back from the University of Oklahoma who would be considered a first round draft pick, if not even upper first round, based on his talent alone. However, it is not known when Mixon will get drafted because of this video. (Warning: The video shows disturbing violence of a man perpetrated against a woman; watch at your own discretion.)
That one punch resulted in multiple facial fractures for the woman and a lifelong big black mark against Mixon. While many other football players have committed domestic violence, few have had it recorded on a video which became public. This very ugly incident is now engrained in the memory of the millions of people who have watched it. Many other players with domestic violence accusations, both those who have not gone beyond allegations and those who have been convicted in a court of law, have gotten off relatively easily in the court of public opinion. They may have dropped a little bit in the draft or got a little bit of grumbling from their team’s local community, but didn’t suffer much beyond that. That doesn’t make their cases any less worse, but it’s just the reality that Mixon’s case is different because everybody can see with their own eyes what he did.
Joe Mixon is now a lightning rod. Seemingly everyone who is aware of situation has a strong opinion, or at least strong feelings about him and the possibility of him being drafted. Especially when one considers that the team they root for may draft him. The image in their memory of what Mixon did stands out in an atrocious manner. It is hard for many to stomach seeing that video of Mixon playing in their head and then cheering for the same man each Sunday he suits up in their team’s gear.
I have been through something similar once before. Back in 2009, my beloved Eagles shocked the football world when they signed Michael Vick not long after he had been released from prison. Vick, of course, was infamous for his integral role in a dog fighting ring where hundreds of dogs were grotesquely abused and killed. He was convicted of his crimes and spent close to two years in prison, while also entering into bankruptcy because of the loss of his huge contract with the Atlanta Falcons and previous mismanagement of his earnings.
When the Eagles announced the signing, I was dismayed. I did not want such a man on my football team. I certainly didn’t want to have to cheer for him as he played out on the field for the Eagles. I wasn’t necessarily against giving him a second chance in the NFL, but I certainly didn’t want my team to be the one giving it to him.
Some of my fellow fans were all up in arms in protest against him being on the team, but then were able to quickly forgive and forget once Vick was performing very well on the field. As for me and some others, however, the thinking was different. We still would rather have had someone else to cheer for, but as time went on, we came to accept this second chance for Michael Vick. The man carried himself well, proving over time that he was a changed man. Perfect, no, but much different than the man who had committed those heinous crimes. And unlike many other athletes, and sometimes even “regular” people, who get off from their crimes with just a slap on the wrist, Vick had paid a significant penalty to society. His time had been paid and how much longer should we continue to try to punish him?
The situation with Joe Mixon is different than the one with Michael Vick, but there are some parallels. At what point are we willing to give a second chance? Vick paid a significant penalty for his crimes. Mixon, seemingly got off relatively easy with a sentencing of community service and counseling and suspension from his college football team for one season. Does society need to punish Mixon further since many think he wasn’t punished enough in the first place? Vick showed himself to be a changed man. Mixon is quite questionable in this regard, with allegations and rumors and even documentation of other bad behavior, both before and after this videoed domestic violence incident. How much good behavior (or lack of bad behavior) do we need to see before we’re willing to give a second chance? And is it a “privilege” to be able to play in the NFL that NFL officials and team owners can rightly guard, or is it unfair discrimination to keep out a man who can legally and capably perform the job? Just because the occupation of professional football player brings one much more fame and money than most other professions, is it right to prevent a man from making a living in the thing he is skilled at, when we may not have the same standard for other jobs?
And as Christians, do we, or should we approach this subject different than society? Because after all, isn’t our faith based on receiving second chances….. second chances that we don’t even deserve and would lose if not for the eternal grace of God? With the ability to receive forgiveness and reconciliation. With the opportunity to be reformed and rehabilitated into something better. Yet also with the volition to hold to God’s laws and decrees and justice and righteousness. How does our faith and our personal relation with God overlap into how we interact with and handle other people in these types of circumstances in life?
In our individual lives, we may not happen upon a person with the fame (or infamy) of Joe Mixon, but we very well may encounter other people in similar situations. People who committed some sordid acts in their past and now are looking for a second chance in life or career or relationship or even in the church. Some who may seem like totally different people now, some who may not seem much different, and others who are somewhere murkily in the middle and we’re just not sure what to make of them.
Each and every circumstance is likely different to some degree and so we just can’t lump them all together and handle them with a cookie-cutter response. But what are our guiding principles? What are the ideas and precepts that help us discern what to do? Whether it be speaking out on a public situation like the drafting of Joe Mixon or dealing with a personal situation that very few others know about, how do we fare?
May we remember to stand for justice and righteousness and protection of the innocent, but also remember that we’d be in big trouble if it wasn’t for a God who gives us an eternal second chance.
(Note: Just as I finished this article, another player, Gareon Conley, who was expected to be drafted in the first round, possibly even by the Eagles, was accused of rape. We will see how that situation plays out.)