OU succumbs to ESPN pressure with Mayfield punishment

By Michael Kinney

On Monday, it seemed like a sonic grenade was lobbed into the middle of the Oklahoma football season. Instead of concentrating on the Sooners’ final regular season game, media and fans were reacting to the news surrounding their Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback.

With tears in his eyes, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley announced that quarterback Baker Mayfield would not be starting Saturday’s contest against West Virginia in what would be his last home game at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

The move was made in response to Mayfield’s conduct during a win against Kansas in which a very fired up Mayfield grabbed his crotch while yelling at the KU sideline. The act was caught by ESPN cameras and sent out for public consumption.

That is when the world started to go crazy. Calls for suspensions, public apologies and some kind of penitence with a pint of blood were being requested by certain groups.

And of course, the Sooners gave into the uproar, sort of.

Being taken out of the Oklahoma starting lineup doesn’t really serve any purpose, except to appease those who have been screaming that Mayfield’s behavior for the past three years has been out of control and not representative of an elite quarterback.

Let’s be clear, besides Mayfield’s run-in with the law during the offseason, everything else has centered on his emotions and attitude during games. The same moxy, confidence and bravado he has played with to lead the Sooners to Big 12 titles, the college football playoffs and bowl victories, is the same attitude he is being attacked for having when it comes out in a way some people do not like.

However, during one of his several apologies over the weekend, Mayfield vowed the incident won’t change who he is, but he says changes do have to occur.

“I can’t let this change who I am. That would be a big mistake,” Mayfield said. “I can just handle it better. I want kids to see and look up to me. I have to set a better example.”

The biggest issue I have with the entire situation is the hypocrisy from many different sides.

Riley and Oklahoma say they have to send a message with Mayfield’s punishment. Making sure everyone knows that crotch grabs are not allowed at Oklahoma.

But they have fed into the behavior for three years. At no time did they publicly try to curtail Mayfield, which leads me to believe they were fine with it until a major network went on the attack of not just Mayfield, but the OU program.

That brings us to ESPN, who used Mayfield to promote the Oklahoma Kansas game all week. But as soon as he grabbed his crotch, to them he became everything that was wrong about college football.

And as they condemned his actions, ESPN highlighted it on every one of its shows for three days. Making sure to show the crotch grab over and over

Lastly, the fans and media members who felt so offended morally that they were calling for Mayfield’s suspension. They seemed to have forgotten they were watching a game full of violent acts with dozens of cheerleaders dancing around on the sideline to each big hit.

I am not saying Mayfield’s actions should be glorified or admired. But they also should be treated like he ruined the purity of the game or caused a bunch of kids to turn into criminals.

It was an incident the Sooners could have handled behind the scenes telling him to keep it classy at best. But by feeding into the mob mentality, they only made the situation worse.

If Oklahoma officials, donors were as upset as they came off as being, it makes you wonder if they will stuff Mayfield’s Heisman statue inside a closet instead of forcing fans to relive the imagery for the rest of time.

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