Disappointing from a man with such a questionable past...
When 23-year-old Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston spoke to students at Melrose Elementary School in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Wednesday, he turned what should have been an uplifting and inspiring speech into an exclusionary boys-only club.
In a video posted by the Tampa Bay Times, Winston had this to say to the class of fifth graders:
“All my young boys, stand up. The ladies, sit down. But all my boys, stand up. We strong, right? We strong! We strong, right? All my boys, tell me one time: I can do anything I put my mind to. Now a lot of boys aren't supposed to be soft-spoken. You know what I'm saying? One day y'all are going to have a very deep voice like this [in deep voice]. One day, you'll have a very, very deep voice.
But the ladies, they're supposed to be silent, polite, gentle. My men, my men [are] supposed to be strong. I want y'all to tell me what the third rule of life is: I can do anything I put my mind to. Scream it!”
It didn't take long for the Internet to criticize the Heisman Trophy winner.
Winston responded with the following statement:
"I was making an effort to interact with a young male in the audience who didn't seem to be paying attention, and I didn't want to single him out so I asked all the boys to stand up … During my talk, I used a poor word choice that may have overshadowed that positive message for some."
That's a flimsy enough explanation to accept from most people, and when you consider Jameis Winston doesn’t have a sparkling past when it comes to the treatment of females, it becomes that much harder to hear as anything but good old-fashioned misogyny.
In December of 2012, Erica Kinsman, a fellow student at Florida State University (FSU) who chose to identify herself, filed an allegation of sexual assault against Winston with the Tallahassee Police Department (TPD). According to sources, while "Florida State's policy is that athletes charged with a felony cannot play until their case is resolved ... Winston continued to play throughout the investigation because he was never charged." The TPD dropped the case one year later, leading to a swirl of allegations of improper and inappropriate conduct from and against all sides.
According to an exceptional expose published by the New York Times in 2014:
"The police did not follow the obvious leads that would have quickly identified the suspect as well as witnesses, one of whom videotaped part of the sexual encounter. After the accuser identified Mr. Winston as her assailant, the police did not even attempt to interview him for nearly two weeks and never obtained his DNA. The detective handling the case waited two months to write his first report and then prematurely suspended his inquiry without informing the accuser. By the time the prosecutor got the case, important evidence had disappeared, including the video of the sexual act."
Florida State University held it's own hearing in relation to whether or not Winston had violated the school's code sexual misconduct in December 2014. Despite the fact that Kinsman had "developed bruises and semen was found on her underwear" — the DNA of which was a match for Winston's own, "retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Major B. Harding cleared Winston of violating the student conduct code in the sexual assault allegation."
Harding's decision states:
"I do not find the credibility of one story substantially stronger than that of the other. Both have their own strengths and weaknesses. I cannot find with any confidence that the events as set forth by you, (accuser), or a particular combination thereof is more probable than not as required to find you responsible for a violation of the Code. Therein lies the determinative factor of my decision."
A determined Kinsman chose to file a civil suit against Winston in April 2014, to which he responded by filing a countersuit for "defamation and tortious interference." His claim of tortious interference has been dismissed, and the remainder of the two cases have now been combined and are scheduled to be heard this coming May.
So he may want to remain on good behavior right about now.
Especially given that in 2016, FSU was ordered to pay Kinsman $950,000 to settle a lawsuit in which she alleged the university violated federal law because it "did not promptly investigate either the rape accusation or a witness’s admission that he had recorded part of the encounter on video." The university also agreed to conduct five years of sexual awareness programs.
This case was far from the only instance of questionable conduct on Winston's part.
- In 2012, Winston and a fellow student at FSU were handcuffed and held by campus police for allegedly bringing a BB gun on campus, though no charges were filed.
- In 2013, police were called to a Burger King after employees called to complain that he was stealing soda.
- In 2014, Winston received an adult civil citation for "shoplifting crab legs from a Tallahassee Publix store, [after which he] was ordered to undergo 20 hours of community service and was suspended from any college baseball activity until he completed his community service."
While we have no idea what may have been going through in his mind in any of these situations, his latest post on Twitter doesn't show him to seem particularly phased by the current controversy surrounding his talk with these kids.
Let's hope those girls and boys went home to parents ready to set the record straight.
The last thing our children of ANY gender need to hear at this time in history is anyone — themselves or others — being told to stay seated and keep their mouths shut.