Friday, November 15, 2013

Why Are Sportswriters So Eager to Defend Jameis Winston?

Based on what we know, it doesn’t seem like Jameis Winston committed a crime.

He’s been the center of a nearly year-long sexual assault investigation, but he hasn’t been charged or questioned. The entire investigation has been under wraps since TMZ broke the news on Wednesday.

jameis winston pitt
But I don’t know for sure. No one does. It’s extremely tricky to write about rape and sexual assault in any context, but especially with the bright lights of sports shining down and exposing everything. And Jameis Winston isn’t just an athlete, or a star quarterback – he’s the frontrunner to win The Heisman Trophy.

There’s a lot at stake here.

There is only one column that a national college football writer could have written about this case, and Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports did it. He laid out the facts. He pointed out what I pointed out above – that there are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the case.

Why is the case still open? Why didn’t cops question Winston? Why did it move to the state’s attorney this week – of all weeks – as Winston has become the Heisman frontrunner? Why did TMZ – of all news outlets – break the story instead of more traditional sports media outlets like SportsIllustrated or ESPN?

Wetzel says, in essence, that we don’t know anything yet. It seems, based on what we know, that Winston is innocent and deserves that presumption, at the very least until he is charged.

Most notably, Wetzel never strays too far into two areas that other sportswriters, in particular, have fallen into – blaming the accuser and blaming TMZ.

On the latter, let’s take a look at SI’s Stewart Mandel, who caught my attention with this tweet on Thursday as I was coming home from work.

Whoa! That’s an explosive tweet, right? What is TMZ recklessly speculating on?

Oh, nevermind, Mandel was pointing to a second TMZ story that reported – again, not speculated, but reported – what they had encountered while chasing down the story.

Maybe Mandel was THROWN OFF by TMZ’s journalistic STYLE that gives the appearance of being written by a 13-year old!! Maybe he didn’t believe what he was reading. But the main take away from TMZ’s article should have been – hmm, what is going on here. Not sending a snarky tweet to another news outlet as if you were protecting your nephew.

I love the second line of Mandel’s tweet: “Stick to catching drunk B-list celebrities on camera.” I mean, I would point out all the times TMZ has broken news but I’ll just leave it at the fact they BROKE THE JAMEIS WINSTON STORY! Maybe Mandel should stick to picking college football games?

The cover-up angle has quickly been denounced by college football writers because a) Winston was unknown at the time of the alleged incident and b) that it takes a lot to believe a full-blown cover-up was possible.

For starters, Jameis Winston has never been an unknown in his entire athletic life, especially in Tallahassee where he’s a star baseball player and was the heir apparent to E.J. Manuel from the second he stepped foot on campus. Even if the world didn’t know, Tallahassee always knew who Winston is.

And as for the cover-up, why is that so hard to believe? Do I need to mention all the cases of cops covering up for athletes? Do I need to mention the Steubenville rape case? Or Richie Incognito’s sexual harassment charge, which came up ONLY a year later after another scandal broke?

Hell, this wouldn’t even be the first cover-up at Florida State – former Florida State QB Adrian McPherson alleged a massive cover-up of gambling in 2003 that he was being scapegoated for.

But while Mandel came off as petty and snarky, he wasn’t being dangerous – though he cast doubt on TMZ, he never cast doubt on the seriousness of the allegation. Whether or not you believe Jameis Winston committed a crime, rape is a serious problem in this country, especially in high-profile cases, because the victim tends to be blamed.

In an article I am NOT linking to that ran several weeks ago, it suggested that college girls should stop drinking in order to not get raped. Yikes.

So in the wake of the Jameis Winston allegations, what would your take be? If your Matt Hayes of the Sporting News, it is to say the system is broken for the accused.

Wait, what? Did he say accused? We need to protect the accused?

Yes, yes he did: “I understand why victims are protected, but what about the accused?”

I mean, Jesus, where do you even start with this? One star athlete gets accused of a sexual assault – THAT HE MAY HAVE DONE! – and we need to fix the entire legal system?

Could you possibly imagine the damage done to the thousands of rape cases across the country if the accused doesn’t have his name in print? Why would you limit it to rape? Isn’t it just as bad to be falsely accused of, I don’t know, murder as it is rape? Should we not name the name of anyone arrested in this country because Heaven forbid the Heisman Trophy front-runner is investigated?

Prior the Duke lacrosse case, sportswriters wrongly assumed every athlete committed the crime. Now, a few years later, everything has been overcorrected and they now assume every woman who files a sexual assault allegation is a gold-digging, attention-seeking whore.

In his “column,” Hayes cites ONE example of an athlete being charged with rape. He goes into detail about the Brian Banks story, as he was falsely accused, then falsely convicted and spent 10 years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit.

Banks’ story, though, goes far beyond a false accusation – he was convicted and that’s a broken system. His story is also the exception as opposed to the rule.

Hayes could’ve pointed out Ben Roethlisberger’s drunken actions in a Georgia bar. He could’ve pointed out the four Vanderbilt college football players that are charged with rape. He could’ve written about the cover-up, at Colorado, of Katie Hnida’s allegations.

The list goes on and on and frankly it angers me. But the final straw came from, dammit, my favorite college basketball writer on Twitter, Michael DeCourcy. As I was hurling insults at Hayes – blaming rape accusers before the facts are known is dangerous and unsettling – DeCourcy stood up for his colleague.

Then he sent this:
Yep, 14 paragraphs casting doubt on a sexual assault accuser is okay because Hayes said Winston belongs in jail if he’s guilty. Wow, kudos to you, sir, for agreeing with the law.

And people wonder why 60% of rapes go unreported

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4 comments:

  1. The two word refutation of your silly article is

    GREG DENT

    and if you don't know that you failed at your research

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  2. Why should we protect the accused? Just in case they are wrongly accused. If a man is falsely accused of a rape and is crucified as a perverted monster by the media, and then proves to be innocent, guess what? A great deal of the public now believes he is a perverted monster who got a away with it and will be a piriah for life.

    Saying that the system for the accused is broken is a taking it a little far, but how the media handles accusations is definately broken. they oversensationalize everything to the point of being ridiculous for nothing more than hopes of incresed sales. Look what it did to Casey Anthony. She was found innocent and she had to change her name, cut her hair and get plastic surgery, move and completely reinvent herself just so she can fit into society again. It doesn't matter whether or not you personally felt she did it or not (Which, I would bet money that the public opinion on this case is based solely on how the media handled the case), she was proven innocent.

    That is why we have to protect the accused.

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  3. I don't hear anyone "defending" him. Reputable outlets have withheld even speaking on it because this whole thing reeks of BS. Other outlets are repeating over and over that he is involved, and even COMMITTED an act that has yet to even be verified to have occurred.

    But you somehow think he's being defended. That's rich.

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  4. This whole situation is so sad, regardless of Winston's innocence or guilt. If he is innocent, then this accusation will hang over his head for the rest of his life. If him is guilty, then the mental anguish of this young woman will last years, if it ever heals. Regardless of the truth of the matter, everyone involves looses. I read an interesting article on the subject, not of Winston’s innocence or guilt, but just the situation in general. http://www.livethelife.org/jameis-winston-was-set-up-heres-the-proof/

    ReplyDelete