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WCPO’s call for boycott on Bengals is really a call for attention

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WCPO’s boycott the Bengals editorial seemed more like an appeal to emotions than a call to stop assaults against women.

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

To call the Bengals’ second-round selection of Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon controversial would be an understatement.

A day after Mixon’s selection, WCPO was already calling for a boycott of the team.

We are urging every Bengals fan to take drastic action.

Instead of buying a Bengals ticket this year, take the $50 or more you would have spent on that ticket and donate the money to a nonprofit that works to prevent violence against women. We have included a list of organizations below.

Enough is enough, Bengals. We can excuse another season without winning a playoff game.

We can't excuse drafting a player like Joe Mixon.

I have no issue with a news network calling for a boycott of the team over a selection as controversial as Mixon’s. There’s no excuse for Mixon’s actions, and there’s no need for elaboration as to what exactly Mixon has done here. By now, we all know what happened between Mixon and Amilia Molitor.

Whether we as the fans believe Mixon did or did not deserve a second chance does not matter at this point; the Bengals have given him that chance. At this point, it now becomes a question of whether the fans are willing to support the team.

Again, I have no issue with fans deciding they’re unable to support the team. But as I tweeted immediately after Mixon was drafted, anyone who decides not to support the team for moral reasons and doesn’t stick to his or her word is going to come back looking bad, especially after criticizing others for not sharing the same opinion.

Here’s more from WCPO’s editorial on the issue:

Apparently, Mike Brown, Marvin Lewis and the Bengals management think winning is all that matters. Apparently, those franchise leaders don't care about potentially alienating the team's female fans.

It's time we as fans tried to teach this team a lesson. We say tried because at this point, we have to wonder if the leaders of this team will EVER get it.

Maybe the only way is through the Bengals' pocketbook.

There are some major issues and blatant hypocrisy not only in this excerpt, but also in the entire editorial, so without further ado, here are the three biggest flaws with WCPO’s call for a boycott.

Rather than taking a serious moral stance against domestic abuse, WCPO’s editorial is a shameless appeal to fans’ emotions:

There’s a lot to unpack here. WCPO frames this editorial as a moral stance against domestic violence, but the editorial spends far more time criticizing the Bengals’ supposed incompetence than it does discussing what it is about Mixon’s actions that was so repugnant.

WCPO does a few things in the piece to illuminate how drastic Mixon’s actions were — it shows the notorious video, mentions how Mixon’s former college coach believes Mixon’s punishment should’ve been harsher, writes “a man hitting a woman is not OK” and encourages fans to support organizations which help women who deal with violence, providing a list of three specific groups.

But the majority of the editorial focuses much more on the Cincinnati Bengals and their supposed ignorance and incompetence.

“Over and over, the Bengals have drafted, signed and stood by players with troubled legal backgrounds or other concerns that make them less-than-stellar role models.”

“The Bengals can't control how a player acts. But they can control how the organization handles incidents like Adam Jones' arrest. The team can control the types of players it signs, drafts and trades for.”

“Apparently, Mike Brown, Marvin Lewis and the Bengals management think winning is all that matters. Apparently, those franchise leaders don't care about potentially alienating the team's female fans.”

“Enough is enough, Bengals. We can excuse another season without winning a playoff game.”

There are plenty of examples in the Bengals’ history beyond just Mixon and Jones that WCPO could’ve used to further its point. As WCPO’s own Greg Noble pointed out after Mixon’s selection, eight Bengals have been accused of domestic violence and/or assaulting women since 2000. Jones is among those, but so are Corey Dillon, A.J. Nicholson and Robert Sands. The latter two were released following those respective incidents.

Of course, a quick Google search would lead to the Bengals’ arrest history since 2000, in which Dillon, Nicholson, Sands and many others appear on the list. Not listing any of these names just makes WCPO’s efforts in this editorial appear rushed and incomplete.

The Bengals spent parts of six days with Mixon before selecting him in the draft, trying to get a feel for him as a person off-the-field before picking him in the second round. Yet of the team and WCPO, it seems the latter is the one who has spent less time doing research.

And, of course, the most obvious appeal to fans’ emotions:

“Drafting Mixon shows that at least one team — our hometown team — has learned nothing from the Ray Rice incident.”

The “our hometown team” is an unveiled appeal to ethos. Bringing up the “hometown” factor doesn’t add any substance to the editorial’s argument, and it almost dehumanizes Mixon as if he’s a villain who is going to run around the streets of Cincinnati, punching anyone he sees. Mixon’s single, isolated event was certainly irreparable, but that’s not to say Mixon, who has already professed his desired commitment to change, cannot do just that.

WCPO suggests Mixon has a pattern of off the field incidents without the supporting evidence necessary to do so:

Mixon’s incident with Molitor? Absolutely a red flag, no question. “I don’t know who isn’t disgusted with what they saw,” Lewis said of Mixon’s actions against Molitor. But beyond that incident, there isn’t much.

Using an incident with a parking attendant as evidence, WCPO claims Mixon’s incident, for which he made amends for, was not just a one-time mistake.

But maybe that was a one-time mistake?

Maybe... except then last fall he was suspended for a game by Oklahoma after a dispute with a parking attendant.

Mixon did in fact serve a one-game suspension after a dispute with a parking attendant. Maybe his actions in that event could potentially indicate the running back could have a pattern of dooming behavior off-the-field. But in no way does a separate incident, with a parking attendant no less, suggest Mixon “has a history.”

Note: as a former valet attendant and California state license holder, I can personally attest that anything involving an automotive, whether it’s driving, paying for parking or even making a trip to the DMV once every five years brings out the worst in people. That doesn’t excuse Mixon’s actions in this case, but as someone who has dealt with some difficult people (and seen the worst in many) as a parking attendant, I think it’s worth reserving judgment based on this specific incident.

The video of Mixon punching Molitor is prominently displayed on WCPO’s website with little to no context:

There’s a legitimate argument to be made that posting the video of Mixon punching Molitor can serve a deeper purpose, displaying just how disgusting the running back’s actions were — and just how brutal his punch was — in the incident. But WCPO does not even bother to explain its reasoning for not only placing the video in the middle of its editorial but also labeling the video a “MUST SEE VIDEO” on the sidebar of its website:

If the WCPO editorial board truly believes Mixon’s actions are irreparable, why plaster the website with a video of Mixon striking Molitor? Fans know it happened. Most have seen the video. But most importantly, WCPO does not even explain its choice to put the Mixon video up as a must-see video.

Placed above the video on another Bengals piece is a caption reading “WATCH the video (Some people will find it disturbing).” Again, it just seems like a little more context would go a long way. From the way WCPO frames the video, it seems the network is more concerned with page views than it is the severity of the Bengals’ drafting of Mixon.

If they’re going to suggest a boycott, maybe they should boycott, too

All in all, the decision made by the WCPO editorial board to call for a boycott wasn’t bad. But the network’s inability to explain why exactly a boycott was necessary, use of the phrase “we the fans,” lack of supporting evidence and indecisive tone throughout the editorial (WCPO sarcastically said Mixon “sounds like a standup guy” at one point and took a shot at the Bengals’ lack of playoff success under Lewis) all culminated in what was a highly misunderstood and widely criticized editorial.

If WCPO better explained its reasoning for the encouragement of a boycott or took action by choosing to halt its coverage of the Bengals, I don’t think the editorial would’ve fallen on deaf ears. But because the network almost immediately produced the editorial after Mixon’s selection and still hasn’t put in the effort to convince me WCPO is serious about its call to action, I’m taking this call for a boycott as a call for page views instead.