On Tuesday, reigning Heisman rophy winner Jameis Winston stood on Florida State University table and screamed “Fuck her right in the pussy!”.
Students, either finding it amusing or kind of weird, took to Twitter and tweeted about it, as you do when the star quarterback does a thing. Deadspin collected those tweets and posted them.
Then all hell broke loose.
One wonders how much play this would get in the pre “We get our news from Twitter” days. One wonders if it’d be news at all. But alas, here we stand, with Winston suspended for a half vs. Clemson on Saturday, and every hot take artist tripping all over themselves to make a statement.
It doesn’t help that this is happening at a time wherein the NFL keeps tripping head first into controversy over domestic violence and the way it views women. And Winston was investigated for sexual assault, though never charged, and under dubious circumstances.
Winston has been involved in a slew of other incidents that seem small in relation to that. He was questioned but never charged in an incident involving a BB gun and broken windows. He was issued a civil citation for stealing soda at Burger King, using ketchup cups and a water cup. After winning the Heisman, he was caught stealing crab legs. And now he’s been suspended for shouting something obscene on campus.
There is a large gap between the first alleged crime, and the second group of blunders. One is what seems to be, at the very least, a crime that, on some level, was covered up.
The second is the kind of stuff that any douchey, immature, naive 20 year-old would do if they were the BMOC.
Mel Kiper has made a big deal of the fact that he lowered Winston from number 3 on his 2014 big board to number 25. In Kiper’s mind, Winston is lucky he didn’t fall off the board altogether. Kiper crowed about Winston having six “incidents”, and how dropping him on the board was to be a “wake-up call”. He was a surefire first rounder before, but now there was no doubt you take Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota first overall, while Winston would be lucky to be drafted at all, especially in the NFL’s cuurent climate.
These shots were enough to echo off the halls of Bristol, which is treating this as a huge news story.
Let’s just break this down, piece by piece.
1.) Who the hell has a big board in September? The season isn’t a month old. Most NFL scouts aren’t even assembling a board. They haven’t been to Staples to even buy the board.
2.) Winston was at number 3 on his board, despite a sexual assault conviction. Kiper was bubbling with righteous indignation over this latest “incident”.
But one of these things isn’t like the other. If Winston was number 3 on Mel Kiper’s board even with his sexual assault accusation front and center, it suggests that either Kiper weighs shouting an internet meme more heavily than that of sexual assault, or that he simply didn’t care until now, when there was a need to be outraged at something other than the NFL.
3.) Any team that decided to not draft Jameis Winston because Mel Kiper —who, I’ll remind you, has never played football, nor been an NFL scout, personnel person, or even secretary — dropped him on his board, in September, should be fired. Like, yesterday.
Here’s the bottom line. Jameis Winston is a monstrously talented athlete, in the prime of his life. He’s also 20, and immature. Just like every kid his age. He has, quite literally, cognitively, not grown up yet. Name a 20 year-old that you don’t hate. If you met yourself when you were 20, you’d hate yourself too.
That doesn’t excuse what he did. It was stupid. It was vulgar. It was immature, unnecessary, unbecoming of him as a man and as a football player. He does have a lot of growing up to do before he moves onto the NFL.
But so did Peyton Manning. So do many people, not just athletes, who are Winston’s age.
In today’s uber-connected culture, everyone is held to a higher standard. Athletes like Winston and Johnny Manziel may be held to the highest of those standards. But moreover, the current sports media loves to build a lovable hero, and them quickly turn then heel and tear them down.
So many sports personalities pretend that athletes are always supposed to be perfect angels. Especially after what has transpired in the NFL the last few weeks. But it seems unfair to ding Winston for the transgressions of a league he’s not involved in.
“How could he not know, ESPECIALLY NOW, with everything going on in the NFL, that he can’t do this? How could any team trust him as the face of the franchise? Now he HAS to stay in school!”
The first thing goes back to the fact that he’s 20. You’d love for Winston to show maturity, but it’s pretty clear that no, Winston wasn’t thinking about his draft stock.
Nor should he be. If Winston is already eyeballing the NFL at age 20 to the point of stifling himself in hopes to get drafted in 2015, that’s a bigger red flag than shouting an obscenity. It means he’s already checking out on this Florida State team.
Even so, Winston had publicly stated he wants to get his degree and stay in school. It may be lip service, but until he declares, it seems foolish to knock him for not doing enough to impress the NFL.
When Winston does come out, the NFL will have to heavily vet the sexual assault allegations, and make the determination whether or not to draft him. That much is true, and serious.
Any team that weighs the indiscretions of youth with the seriousness as that sexual assault allegation is being silly at worse, and probing for more reasons to not draft him.
But the draft is far away. Perhaps farther away than 2015. Let’s let Winston play, and let’s not allow shouting a vulgar phrase to overshadow the actual serious crime that may have happened.
The media will make a story out of anything. Unfortunately, sometimes the bigger stories get buried to fill more airtime.
UPDATE: Winston’s suspension has been changed from a half, to a full game.