Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who led his Seminole football team to a perfect record and a date in the BCS Championship against Auburn, is the leading candidate to win the Heisman Trophy this weekend.
And, according to a young woman, Jameis Winston is also a rapist.
Oh sure, authorities in Tallahassee aren’t pursuing charges against the Seminole quarterback, but their main reason – prosecutors doubt they can get a conviction – isn’t a statement of Winston’s innocence and more one of legal expediency. Had a proper investigation been done a year ago, when the incident was first reported, there might be more for the prosecutors to build a case on.
“Obviously it would have been somewhat better if we had all gotten into this case a little bit earlier. Time is important, and it certainly would have been nice,” Willie Meggs, state attorney for the Second Judicial Circuit, told ESPN.
Many years ago I worked on the sports desk of The Tallahassee Democrat, spending two seasons in a town crazy for its college football, so I’m aware of the entitlement and protection afforded FSU football players (not that it’s any different in other towns with large college programs). But reading through the incident report, it’s difficult to discern why more wasn’t done to investigate the woman’s statements. She had too much to drink – which several people verify – which doesn’t put her in the right mind to consent, yet even in her inebriated state “she told the suspect to stop,” the report reads. She told authorities this the next day.
So what did Tallahassee’s finest do in response? They sent emails. Working from details the woman gave police regarding the cab she took with three men from the bar on the night in question, police emailed cabbies asking them to come forward with information. None of them did. Shocking. Did police think to, I don’t know, GO AND INTERVIEW SOME CABBIES? I don’t know much about cabbies, but I can say this: They aren’t looking for trouble, but they will tell you what they know if you ask.
A month later, when classes returned for the spring semester, the woman was able to identify her attacker. Jameis Winston was in one of her classes. When investigators scheduled an interview with Winston, he said he had baseball practice. The next day his lawyer came in on his behalf – Winston never spoke with police, according to the report.
So in Tallahassee you can just choose not to talk to police? How does this happen?
Football, of course.
I love football, I do. I love the strategy and the athleticism. There’s nothing I like more than watching a 13-play, 86-yard drive that eats 7:43 off the clock. I enjoy seeing fullbacks picking up the safety blitz, linebackers run across the field to cut off the corner, and quarterbacks throwing the ball before the receiver makes the turn. What I don’t love is the prominence and privilege it’s afforded in our society – where coaches are oblivious to common courtesy and players are feted by the public as more than just men. I was watching video clips of Auburn fans reacting to the 109-yard return to win the Iron Bowl and all I could think was “for many of these people, this will be a highlight point in their lives.” I had to stop watching because it left me depressed.
What has Florida State University done about this situation? Under the Dear Colleague letter, requiring universities to respond to allegations of sexual violence against its students, FSU must investigate what happened and determine if Winston faces discipline from the university. A recent incident at the University of Georgia resulted in UGA expelling a student – a student who was never charged with the crime he was accused of. That the woman had a class with Winston was surely grounds for some action. Was any taken?
“Florida State University has a primary purpose to educate young people while enabling them to hone their skills and develop their gifts so they can become productive citizens,” FSU President Eric Barron said in a statement. “It is also our responsibility to treat students fairly and provide appropriate support. Recent weeks have provided a painful lesson, as we have witnessed harmful speculation and inappropriate conjecture about this situation and the individuals involved. As a result, we have all been hurt.”
Sorry Eric, it appears as if only one person was really hurt. Now tell me, what did FSU do to support this young woman?
FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher was pleased Winston was “exonerated,” the wrong word for this situation, but the typical inappropriate conjecture you’d expect from a football coach. What does Jimbo care anyway, this all turns out well for him, his quarterback, his team, and their devoted fans.
But what does the woman do now? Her family is holding a press conference Friday, the day before the Heisman ceremony, to talk about the Meggs’ investigation. There will be uneducated howls from FSU fans telling them to give it up and move on, but if authorities won’t do anything, it’s up to the family to keep fighting. There is no peace in silence.
And if Saturday evening Winston takes the stage as winner of this year’s Heisman Trophy, the Downtown Athletic Club should automatically return to Reggie Bush the Heisman he forfeited last year.
All Reggie is accused of taking is gifts; what Winston is accused of taking is much, much worse.