By Julie Buehler
He was “Famous Jameis” for most of the 2013 college football season. A young man whose size and athleticism was an indisputable force for Florida State football.
He erupted into the national spotlight September 2, 2013 with a monstrous 25 for 27, 356 yards and 4 touchdown performance at Pittsburgh.
Everyone wanted to watch Jameis Winston play football. But nobody knew who he was off the field.
Last fall reports surfaced that he was under investigation for a sexual assault that allegedly occurred in 2012, before Winston had taken a snap for the Seminoles top-flight program.
A year later, local prosecutors decided there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute, let alone convict a young man of the heinous act. Two days after that decision came down, Winston led the Seminoles in a win over Duke for the ACC title. Media and supporters lauded his ability to “compartmentalize” the distraction of having, you know, that rape charge, hanging around his neck.
Winston went on to win the Heisman Trophy and the BCS National Title.
Everyone loved to watch Jameis Winston play football. But few knew who he was off the field.
The New York Times wrote a stunning investigative piece in April of 2014 outlining the shoddy investigation by Tallahassee police and Florida State’s limp response to the accusations.
It outlines the timeline of events, lazy investigation, and shaming of the alleged victim by police and school officials. The same public officials who took an oath to procure authority were all too willing to relinquish parts of it and purportedly misused the power they could.
In many ways, the NYT report outlines the kinds of abuse of power you’d hope only happens in movies where the good guys uncover the cover up and expose the bad guys who get punished.
But sadly, in big-time college football, when bad guys win football games, they become “good guys” in the eyes of too many blind fans willing to abdicate their sensibility and morality for the sake of victory.
Everyone loves to watch Jameis Winston play football. And we’re beginning to know who he is off the field.
As though the investigation into a sexual assault weren’t enough cause to take pause when considering whether a player should be the face of a program, he has since been punished for theft and yelling obscenities while standing on a table in the middle of a student union.
I can’t print the obscene language he used, but it was a grotesque way of describing intercourse with a female.
You’d be hard-pressed to find ANYONE with enough stupidity running through their veins to shout this phrase in a public forum, let alone a high profile athlete.
And especially inconceivable: the fact he’d been investigated for rape.
You’d think the school would be horrified that the young man they tabbed as the face of the program could display such filthy discernment.
Nope, for this outburst, Winston was suspended one game where he stood on the sidelines and cheered for his team as though he pulled a hammy.
The latest controversy involves THOUSANDS of Winston-autographed memorabilia for sale on the Internet. The same company that paid Johnny Manziel to autograph goodies is the same company the NCAA is investigating to see if Winston was paid for his signature. There’s a minimum of 4 NCAA violations Winston is currently being investigated for.
AND Florida State has decided to open a disciplinary hearing into the rape allegations.
But Florida State keeps winning football games and their head coach Jimbo Fisher isn’t willing to pull the rug out from underneath himself and the countless others who make millions off Winston’s athleticism and wins.
After Florida State stormed back from an early deficit against Notre Dame and ended up beating the Fighting Irish to remain undefeated on the season and still in the national title conversation, Fisher and Winston met at mid-field. As Winston shouted, “Let’s enjoy this one right here, let’s enjoy this one right here, baby. Let’s go.” Fisher advised him, “Now here’s what you’ve got to do,” Fisher said into Winston’s ear. “Calm down, don’t give them … act very passive right here and get people back on your side. Do you understand what I’m telling you? Humble, humble pie. You got me?”
Winston acknowledged his coach and went on with his day, celebrating the win.
Fisher then, in post-game interviews, spoke of FSU and said, “This is a high-character program that’s ran the right way, on class, on dignity, in the classroom, off the field, and this team shows it.”
I just threw up in my mouth.
The same cameras that caught him coaching his athlete to “act passive right here” in hopes to “get people back on your side” also said they have dignity and class? Fisher either doesn’t know what those words mean, or worse, he’s lying to himself and the nation. I’m not buying it folks.
That is a classic PR spin: “Just act the part and let the controversy blow over.” Fisher is hoping by “acting passive” and being “humble” in word, Winston will lull the American public into believing his past misgivings were merely out of character or minor mistakes of a young man.
Meanwhile, as long as Winston can, you know, manage not to offer X-rated rants in the student union anymore or avoid stealing crab legs, Fisher can go on the recruiting trail and tell anyone and everyone who’s got an ear to listen that all he’s done is support his guy and that they’ll be afforded the same blind allegiance as well.
The machine that is big-time college football is so fraught with corruption that a young man who’s bad behavior is enough to make Lindsey Lohan blush, is coddled, coached to “act” certain ways and allowed to be the face of a program while his coach plunges his head in the sand for the sake of procuring a solid recruiting class and a fat wallet for his cronies.
Haven’t we learned, after a difficult summer in the NFL and NBA, that the only way to effectively change those behaving badly in sports is to take them out of the game?
Winston should have been benched long ago, and should be benched immediately.
Sure, everyone loves to watch Jameis Winston play football. But we now know too much about who he is off the field.
Julie Buehler hosts the Coachella Valley’s most popular sports talk radio show, “Buehler’s Day Off” every day from 3-6 on 1010 KXPS, the valley’s all sports station. She can also be seen every morning between 6-7am on KMIR sharing the coolest stories in sports. She’s an avid gym rat, slightly sarcastic and more likely to recite Steve Young’s career passing stats than American Idol winners. Tune in M-F 3-6 pst at www.team1010.com or watch “Buehler’s Day Off” on Ustream and KMIR.com for her sports reports.