By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) Jameis Winston is now just a jumbled list of transgressions and accomplishments.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Shower Chance By Daybreak
The Florida State quarterback is stolen crab legs, a Heisman Trophy, an alleged sexual assault that was covered up by university officials, 51 touchdown passes, a one-game suspension for shouting dirty words in the student union, 5,662 passing yards and a pile of autographed jerseys connected to a sleazy authenticator.
Does one of those seem far more important than the others?
What happens in the conflation of news events that swirl around Winston is the loss of perspective regarding which of these things actually matter. It all blurs into a “Jameis Winston controversy” story, needing not just attention to detail to sort it all out, but an active effort to keep our concern directed where it matters most.
In the large-scale assessment, this is a kid with problems at a school with problems, emblematic – yet again – of college football’s excesses and hypocrisies that continue to both enrich and embarrass higher education in America. It’s the usual story of a protected, enabled star athlete who may or may not be some kind of sociopath.
As we dive into details, however, it’s our responsibility to separate real issues from noise, gravity from bureaucracy. We may not know who’s actually guilty of what, but we have to care about what’s really serious.
The autograph stuff is entirely unimportant, relevant only to the NCAA cartel that’s already starting to crumble under the weight of its own conflicted meaninglessness. Star athletes profiting from their own names and images hurts no one, and no school is gaining some kind of recruiting advantage by marketing the opportunity. The signature has value because the player is great, regardless of the name on the front of the jersey.
What’s more, the fear-mongering over the creeping dangers of professionalism now falls flat in the wake of recent court decisions that acknowledge some degree of ownership of one’s name and face. Schools and conferences are scrambling to get ahead of the inevitable, sweeping reforms that will blow up the dated, Orwellian concept of “student-athlete.”READ MORE: Postal Worker Tells CBS 2 Staffing Issues Due To Federal Leave, Prioritization Of Package Delivery Are In Part To Blame For Persistent Mail Problems
As for the seafood lifted from Publix, shoplifting is a petty property crime and should be viewed appropriately. Winston’s profane outburst in the middle of campus speaks to his questionable judgment and decision-making, as does the bizarre scene at the ensuing game when a supposedly suspended player somehow found his way into uniform for warmups.
We must not let those three issues entangle in any way the facts of the rape investigation that was actively impeded by Florida State.
Winston is currently facing an internal inquiry over the incident to determine if he violated the school’s code of conduct regarding sex without consent and the creation of a hostile environment. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education is working to establish if Florida State violated Title IX rules in its foot-dragging response to the allegations.
As described in a comprehensive report by the New York Times in April, the victim’s injuries were consistent with sexual assault, and she identified Winston as the man who attacked her. The police investigation was handled and clearly obfuscated by an officer named Scott Angulo, who also so happened to be on the payroll as a private security officer for the Seminole Boosters, “a nonprofit organization, with nearly $150 million in assets, that is the primary financier of Florida State athletics.”
The whole thing stinks, and it goes way beyond football or baseball – Winston’s other sport.
A recent White House report exposed the alarming epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses, indicating that one in five women are victimized while in school. The Education Department is investigating not just Florida State but also 74 other colleges for how they have reacted to these crimes.
This isn’t crab legs or dirty words or autographs or touchdowns or national rankings or a final score of some game. All of that seems to get unsettlingly equal treatment now, in the saga of “embattled” Jameis Winston.
Not only is one part of this story terribly more significant, but there are others more truly victimized.MORE NEWS: Shock And Outrage In Humboldt Park At Death Of Young Parents Yasmin Perez, Gyovanny Arzuaga In Shooting Called 'Execution-Style'