Opinion: “Famous Jameis” Winston, Rape, and the NFL Draft

Jameis Winston, from a casual sports fan’s perspective, is the guy who is about to be a top pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. He played quarterback at Florida State, won the Heisman Trophy (the award for best player in college football), lead the Seminoles to the College Football Playoff this year, and is seemingly on top of the world.

State attorney Willie Meggs at a December 2013 press conference annoucning that Winston would not be charged with rape. Photo Credit: Don Juan Moore, Getty Images
State attorney Willie Meggs at a December 2013 press conference announcing that Winston would not be charged with rape.
Photo Credit: Don Juan Moore, Getty Images

What a lot of people do not know about him, however, is that he is a alleged rapist, protected both by the Florida State community and the local district attorneys.

Here are the facts of the case: Erica Kinsman, the alleged victim, said that originally, Winston was nice. He pretended to be her boyfriend to get a creepy guy from the bar to stop following her. That is where things took a turn for the worse. He asked her to take a shot with him, a shot that she is now convinced was tainted. The rest of the night is spotty. She recalls waking up in a cab with Winston and two other men, something that she says she would not normally do with a complete stranger. The cab went to his apartment, where the alleged rape occurred.

She remembers him being on top of her. She remembers not being able to breathe. She remembers his roommate coming in and pleading him to stop. She remembers being taken into the bathroom, where the door would lock. She remembers being on the floor, getting pushed to the ground. Finally, she remembers him telling her she was allowed to leave once this horror show was over.

Kinsman went to a local hospital, where a rape kit was administered, but not analyzed until months later. When she and her father met with a Tallahassee Police officer, she was instructed to “think twice” before filing a report. He allegedly stated, “This is a huge football town. You should think long and hard if you want to press charges.”

The Tallahassee Police Department did nothing for 10 months. When they finally acted, the story began garnering national attention. Most notably, ESPN Analysts Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith called the incident “poorly timed” and “terribly unfair” to Winston. Winston maintains the sex was consensual.

The Florida State Attorney said he did not have sufficient evidence to charge Winston, and the FSU conduct code hearing cleared him of everything, so he was allowed to play in the College Football Playoff. While he was being praised for his on-the-field prowess, Kinsman was getting death threats. She was ostracized by the university community, and finally dropped out in November 2013.

When Winston is seen on ESPN, the anchors discussing his draft stock often mention his “off the field issues”. No one ever mentions that he is an accused rapist. Instead, they use this vehicle to avoid the obvious: that he should, under no circumstances, be allowed to play professional football. He should be in prison.

If I were the owner of the team with the top pick, I would not pick him, even if I thought that he was the best player in the draft. I would pick someone else, while simultaneously donating a large sum of money to an anti-rape organization. This would send a message to both Winston and the other teams in the NFL that rape, convicted or not, can never be tolerated. However, that is not what will happen. Realistically, he will be taken by whatever team thinks he will make the most money for them. After all, whatever makes money will happen.

The Winston case embodies all that is wrong with collegiate and professional sports. Why should this man, because he can throw a football and read defenses adeptly, be excused from all types of punishment? Why should he be allowed to stay at the school? Why should he be allowed to play in the NFL?

Professional athletes have for a long time been heroes and role models for the youth in their respective communities. When I was little, I would read the sports section of the newspaper with my dad. These people are not just names on a page. These people are people I looked up to, people I wanted to be like when I grew up. Alleged rapists can not be exempt from the rules just because they are good at a sport, and they sure as hell cannot be role models for children.