Bengals owner Mike Brown published an open letter to fans in the Cincinnati Enquirer on Friday, explaining the controversial selection of running back Joe Mixon in the second round of the NFL draft.
The Bengals have received criticism for drafting Mixon, who punched a woman in the face and broke her jaw during his freshman year at Oklahoma in 2014. Mixon, who recently settled his civil suit with the woman, Amelia Molitor, was considered a first-round talent but slid to Day 2 of the draft.
While Brown did write that “it is unacceptable for a man to strike a woman,” he also believes that Mixon can be a “productive member of this community,” citing Mixon’s recent meeting with the woman he punched to “come to terms with the incident” as an example of how Mixon has tried to move past his terrible and violent act.
Here’s the letter in full:
The player – Joe Mixon – is a top level football player by everyone’s account. Joe’s regrettable deed was that he struck a young woman, another student, shortly after arriving on campus in Norman, Oklahoma, three years ago.
Joe and this young woman recently met in person, came to terms with the incident, and they agreed to resolve their differences so they could move forward with their lives. While the circumstances that led up to the incident are unclear – what is clear is that it is unacceptable for a man to strike a woman.
Since the incident three years ago, Joe was suspended by the football team, pleaded guilty in court, and accepted the consequences of his actions. He later went on to become a good citizen in Norman, a popular teammate, a player respected by his coaches, and one of the most talented players in college football.
The Bengals take pride in our hometown and want to provide winning football on the field and successful players off the field. That is the reason we drafted Joe – he is a rare football talent, and his conduct over the past three years leads us to believe he can help us win football games and also become a productive member of this community.
In making our decision, we took a risk. In this case, the risk has an upside as well as a downside. We believe Joe has put this behind him and that he can turn into the player and community member that creates a plus for Cincinnati. We are going to do everything in our power to make this happen. Our hope is that time will prove that this opportunity is deserved, and perhaps – if given a chance – Joe can write a chapter in Cincinnati sports history that both he and Cincinnati can be proud of.
Mike Brown, President
This is the first public statement Brown has made regarding the addition of Mixon after declining to speak immediately after the draft last week.
Mixon spoke to the media prior to his first practice of rookie minicamp on Friday. He said he had not read the letter but appreciated the support.
“I’ve been just trying to get in here and be with my teammates and move forward with the situation,” Mixon said. “Thank you Mike Brown for that, but I’m just trying to move on and come out here and compete and learn this playbook and get our team the win.”