I’ve never been one to reach a conviction before the jury’s deliberation. I’ve never been one to rush to snap judgements and levy verdicts on individuals, usually individuals very prominent in the public eye, before a thorough investigation by the legal bodies in question.
However, the recent allegations against Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, Jameis Winston, in which an Uber driver alleges inappropriate groping and sexual contact, brings to light a disturbing trend played out throughout the NFL and all of the entertainment industry in regard to sexual violence.
Coupled with recent allegations against Hollywood fixtures Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, the allegations against Winston have become all that more troubling.
This isn’t Winston’s first rodeo, so to speak. This isn’t the first time that he’s been accused of sexual misconduct. That distinction belongs to an encounter he had with Ms. Erica Kinsman, who at the time was a fellow student at Florida State University, who accused Winston of misconduct during his redshirt season in 2012.
And all of this is not to mention Winston’s other alleged wrongdoings, including the recitation of a vulgar Internet meme in Florida State’s student union during his senior season, as well as apparent theft of crab legs from a restaurant and soda from a Burger King. Granted, those allegations are not as serious as the ones brought by Ms. Kinsman, nor the current allegations from the Uber driver.
What can be viewed in Winston’s behavior is an unfortunate and disturbing trend in the larger context of wrongdoing amongst those in these highest profile situations. While an isolated allegation might hold itself in the strictest sense to a “he-said, she-said” distinction, a repeated number of allegations has presented serious flaws in Winston as an individual.
And while some sportswriters have already pounced, citing this as an indictment of Tampa Bay’s selection of Winston, I feel it speaks to larger implications in society.
Yes, Winston has character issues; issues that seem to have carried over from his college days and followed him to the NFL. Yes, his counterpart, Marcus Mariota, drafted one selection slot after him, has statistically performed better, and has led the Tennessee Titans to jockey for position in the playoffs, while the Buccaneers are a woeful 4-6.
Yet, even more so than detriments to the game is the willingness of the nation as a whole to overlook the powerful implications this has.
While this is undoubtedly a problem not uniquely American, the alarming growth in the number of entertainers who have (allegedly) taken advantage of their status and power is horrifying.
When do we begin to hold accountable those who we pay to amuse us and divert our attention? Granted, entertainment can make much bolder and more beautiful statements than that, but because of the nebulous power associated with it, there must be a scrutiny with which we evaluate the entertainer.
How many Harvey Weinsteins or Kevin Spaceys have to grope someone before we put our foot down?
How many Jameis Winstons must we pass along, and then when we finally do condemn them, focus on their body of work or their potential rather than what has been stolen from the victim?
I’m not one for condemning the innocent, but where there’s smoke there’s fire, and where there’s a pattern of alleged wrongdoing, there’s more often than not wrongdoing.