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Heisman Trophy Watch List: Why Jameis Winston Will Not Be On My Ballot

September 17, 2014


                                                                           Jameis Winston// photo credit Lisa Horne



This has been a bad week for the NFL. And now it is college football's turn. 


Florida State quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston reportedly yelled some foul and degrading language toward women on Tuesday while standing on a campus table. (Click here for an article link that contains NSFW language). 


The school has suspended Winston for the first half of the Clemson game this Saturday. It's getting harder and harder to defend Jameis Winston's behavior but somehow, Florida State is managing to do just that. 


Winston's punishment will be spending thirty minutes of playing time in the locker room, that same locker room that supposedly has iPads available for every player. Big whoop.  


In December of 2012, a female student accused Winston of sexually assaulting her. Winston reportedly claimed that he had consensual sex with the woman. State attorney for the Second Judicial Circuit Willie Meggs concluded the following December that there was not a "reasonable likelihood of conviction" and as a result, Winston was not charged, according to an ESPN report. A week later Winston won the 2013 Heisman Trophy.


Five months after winning the Heisman, Winston was named in a shoplifting incident at a Publix supermarket in Florida. Winston claims he forgot to pay for some groceries. How do you walk past a cashier with crab legs in your hands and forget to pay for them? What did Winston think the customers waiting in line were doing and why didn't he think he had to do the same thing? Video doesn't lie. 


Winston's punishment was a three-game suspension from his baseball team's series with Minnesota in May, according to an ESPN report. He also had to do 20 hours of community service as part of a pre-trial diversion program. How convenient was it for Florida State that Winston was a dual-sport athlete?


Winston's athletic achievements were certainly impressive last year. I typed his name next to my ballot's No. 1 spot despite having reservations about his character.


I wanted to believe Winston last December but at the same time, what about the alleged sexual assault victim? Didn't she deserve the same courtesy? Did I give her the same preferential treatment? Probably not, because authorities told us that there was no proof Winston was anything other than a normal college student engaging in sexual activity.


Americans are appalled by the mistreatment of women in other parts of the world.  Yet they gloat when a man is cleared of sexual assault charges—not because he may be innocent. But because he can play football.  That's the most important thing, right? 


Winston was one of the best athletes in the country last year. He is not one of the best student-athletes in the country this year.  


Character matters in the Heisman race. We voters are reminded of that by the Heisman Trust before we cast our ballots. So here we are in mid-September and I already know where one of my preseason candidates will be on my ballot.




I'm not happy about making that admission, but I am going to make a stand. I am tired of women being degraded by men, especially men who are role models to wide-eyed impressionable youngsters. A vote for Winston is condoning his words and as a female Heisman voter, I won't be a part of that. 


Yes, kids make mistakes. But excusing his classless behavior with "all college kids do that" or "innocent until proven guilty" is getting tiresome. And irrelevant. 


Heisman voting isn't done in a court of law where a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Football awards are won in the court of public opinion and I've formed an opinion of Winston. 


If a video shows someone leaving a market without paying for groceries, that's shoplifting—I do not need a verdict to tell me otherwise. I don't care if he "forgot" to pay. If a school suspends a player for degrading women with offensive language at the student union, I don't need anymore proof that it happened. I don't care if his words are a meme from a fake video.  


Winston is the face of Florida State. And right now, it's not a pretty look. 


Of course there are students who behave just as badly as Winston and we never hear about them. He lives in a fish bowl and they don't. But if you know everyone is watching you and you have had some run-ins with law enforcement officials, why call more attention to yourself? Standing on a table? When will high-profile players learn?


I voted for Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel on my 2012 Heisman ballot. The following year he was left off my ballot because his character was questionable. Manziel served out a half-game suspension in the first game of the 2013 season against Rice for an inadvertant NCAA infraction which many viewed as the tip of the iceberg that was never vetted out. 


Like Manziel, Winston will receive my no-vote treatment. 


This is not a racial issue. This is not a class issue. This is not a political issue. This is an issue of perpetuating abusive behavior toward women. This is an issue of degradation and disrespect. 


Am I punishing Winston? Absolutely not. I wish him nothing but the best of luck in his future endeavors. I want him to succeed. But by taking Winston out of the running, I am giving another student-athlete who plays by the rules an opportunity to move up. 


Your 2013 Heisman winner should be remembered for standing on a podium with grace and humility. Unfortunately, many may remember him standing on a table with crab legs. 


Heisman voters have given out a lot of hall passes over the years. I have run out of them.


I'm not perfect and I don't expect student-athletes to be perfect. But I refuse to be desensitized to objectionable behavior by apologists' blithering excuses.


If you want to be a serious Heisman candidate, have a great season, show decent character, be a team leader and avoid controversy. If you can do all that, you're probably on my Heisman ballot.


One out of four just isn't good enough for me. And it shouldn't with anyone else.    





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