The Michael Dixon scandal has officially leapt off the headlines and Twittersphere and into the rap game.
The Souls of Liberty, who opened for Kendrick Lamar on Saturday, uttered the line, “… They trying to put me out the game / but I’m innocent like Michael Dixon,” eliciting oohs and aahs and tweets galore from a sold-out Jesse Auditorium.
The verses sent shockwaves through a community still recuperating from the two rape allegations that surfaced last week linking the once-standout guard for Missouri’s No. 12 basketball team to police investigations from January 2010 and August 2012.
“I feel like people look at him and think, ‘You’ve done it before. What will stop you from doing it again?’” freshman Jummy Akala said. “He disrespected the university who put trust in him, and he’s not being grateful.”
Questions still loom about when athletic department officials learned about the accusations and why, given the seriousness of the alleged crimes, he was allowed to remain on the team without punishment for 2 1/2 years.
Even more questions remain about how MU and its student body deal with sexual violence.
“I think (MU) handled it appropriately,” sophomore Clayton Armfield said. “Rape isn’t really a joke, and getting accused of it, especially for the second time since he’s been here … I think it was a fair process.”
The Tigers (6-1) completed a 72-56 rout of Appalachian State just hours before the concert in what seemed a return to normalcy after a week of speculation about Dixon’s future with the team.
Though Dixon had been suspended since mid-October, he practiced with the team and even traveled to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament during Thanksgiving break.
The win over the Mountaineers in front of 9,388 at Mizzou Arena was the team’s first game with Dixon officially banished from the program.
“We had almost a week to prepare, and I think guys really took heed to what coach (Frank Haith) was saying during practice,” senior forward Laurence Bowers said. “We really came together after the Mike situation. He’s our brother, and we hate that it happened, but it did. So we just continue to build the chemistry on this team because this is the team we’ve been playing with since the beginning.”
Dixon’s absence opens a permanent spot for freshman guard Negus Webster-Chan in the starting lineup and an increased role for senior guard Keion Bell off the bench. At the end of the semester, sophomore guard Jabari Brown will join the team to further crowd the backcourt.
Haith said his team and its mentality won’t change because Dixon had not been active for more than a month and all of the Tigers’ seven games.
“Mike hadn’t played with us all year, so we are who we are right now,” he said.
Dixon takes with him 13.3 points per game from 2011 and leaves junior guard Phil Pressey without his running mate of three years.
Pressey refrained from commenting about the situation in postgame interviews but expressed his outrage on his Facebook page.
“I can’t believe this right now,” Pressey said in a Facebook post. “I haven’t been so disappointed in somebody leaving a basketball team under these circumstances.”
Even without Dixon, Bowers said he still feels optimistic.
“This is the team we’ve been playing with since the beginning,” Bowers said. “So we just gotta continue to work and pray for Mike and get ready for SEMO (Southeast Missouri).”