Jameis Winston has two resumes.
One reads like a Hall of Fame plaque. He won the 2013 Heisman Trophy and the 2014 BCS National Championship. He was named a consensus first-team all-American and the ACC Athlete of the Year. The quarterback stands 6’4”, weighs 230 lbs., has a rocket for a right arm and enough athleticism to make every NFL (and MLB) scout in the country quiver with anticipation at exactly what Winston will do as a pro athlete.
The other reads like a rap sheet. Police were called in 2012 when he allegedly brought a BB gun onto the Florida State University campus, although no charges were filed. In July 2013, Winston was accused of stealing soda from a Burger King, and then he was charged in April 2014 with stealing crab legs from a store in Tallahassee, Fla. He was suspended from the baseball team until he completed 20 hours of court-ordered community service.
The worst bullet on this resume, however, is an alleged sexual assault that occurred in December 2012. Although the Tallahassee Police Department declined to press charges after an investigation marred by questionable tactics — The New York Times reported that the TPD never obtained any DNA samples from Winston — FSU is conducting an investigation into the alleged incident.
Winston does not seem to have learned from any of these transgressions, as he stood up on a table at the FSU Student Union just a month ago and yelled a phrase from an Internet meme that is both so inappropriate and so disrespectful towards women that I will not repeat it here.
For this latest stunt, the star was originally suspended for one half of a football game, but then FSU extended his suspension to cover a whole game.
Nothing I have written so far is new — you could have found it out just as easily by googling “Jameis Winston” as you did by reading my column. What drove me to write about Winston, however, is that as long as Winston continues to excel on the field, too many people seem to be willing to ignore his off-the-field misbehavior.
Not only that, but during the broadcast of Saturday night’s game between then–No. 2 FSU and then–No. 5 Notre Dame, the ABC announcers continually called Winston a “leader.”
They praised Winston for his play on the field — as a Notre Dame fan, I begrudgingly admit that the praise was warranted — but also for how he acted with his teammates. When he yelled at his offensive linemen on the sidelines, the announcers said he was a leader who set an example and took initiative. When he literally just stood in a huddle of players on the sidelines while FSU coach Jimbo Fisher cajoled the offense after a bad series, they praised Winston for taking charge of the situation.
Regardless of how Winston played and led his team on the field, Winston has not earned the title “leader.” College athletes should be able to make mistakes, but the litany of miscues and poor decisions made by Winston far exceeds what is acceptable. Even if we presume innocence regarding the sexual assault allegation, which we should, Winston has demonstrated a pattern of disrespect for authority and for other human beings that not only disqualifies him as a role model, but makes him a prime example of how you should not act. By continually calling Winston a leader, even if only in reference to his glory on the gridiron, the announcers on Saturday and others who have lauded Winston have been sending a mixed message about what it means to lead.
Until Winston has proved that he can make life decisions as well as he can make decisions with the football, Winston cannot continue to be raised above the rest. There are too many other good football players who deserve our respect for how they act off the field, as well as how they play on it, for the media to focus on Winston and forget what leadership really means.