A moment of “youthful ignorance,’’ Jameis Winston calls it. A troubling red flag, I call it. As someone who is very lucky not to have been dragged into a rape trial last year, whether he was innocent or not, Winston should be trying his damnedest every minute of every day to remain squeaky clean in the college town he happens to own. Ordering $32.72 worth of seafood at a Tallahassee grocery store, then not bothering to pay for it, smacks of an immature kid who might think he’s entitled and privileged as the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback of Florida State’s national championship team.
Or perhaps even a kid who believes he’s above the law because he beat the law last December, when he avoided criminal charges that he sexually assaulted another Florida State student in December 2012.
Famous Jameis needs to stay out of negative headlines, even when they merely involve crab legs and crawfish at a Publix supermarket. As long as he’s making the wrong news, he’s Infamous Jameis, and he becomes a potential liability for NFL teams who would like to make him a top pick in the 2015 draft. While it’s important to note he has yet to be arrested or charged in his various legal cases, this one suggests he doesn’t grasp the magnitude of his place in American sports — someone who could make history as the first player to win back-to-back Heisman and national titles, someone who could be a major athlete in this country at a glamour position for the better part of two decades. A shoplifting citation warranted quick action by Florida State, and I’m glad to report that Mike Martin, coach of a Seminoles baseball team which Winston has served as a preseason All-America relief pitcher, suspended him on the spot.
But if Winston doesn’t fulfill his community-service obligations via an adult citation program, he will be arrested. I’m not sure if a guy who says he “forgot’’ to stop at a checkout line and pay a dinner bill is ready to assume any responsibility.
“I went to the supermarket with the intent to purchase dinner but made a terrible mistake for which I’m taking full responsibility. In a moment of youthful ignorance, I walked out of the store without paying for one of my items,’’ said Winston, in a statement issued through — and surely written by — his attorney.
“I realize that I am in the public spotlight and my conduct needs to be above reproach. Over the last year I’ve learned that my accomplishments on the fields can be a wonderful thing for my school, teammates, friends, and family. At the same time, I must realize that my mistakes are magnified and can bring great embarrassment to all those who support me every day. I make no excuses for my actions and will learn and grow from this unfortunate situation. I hope and pray my friends and family will view me as the 20-year-old young man that I am, and support me through this unfortunate situation. I am grateful to be able to participate in the adult citation program where I will complete community service.”
Poor judgment leads to an erosion of trust among possible future employer. In addition to a rape investigation, Winston has been accused at Florida State of shooting BB guns at windows in an apartment complex and filling ketchup cups with unpaid-for soda at a Burger King. Every time Infamous Jameis is in trouble with the law, he loses money, and maybe lots of money. He still has a year to clean up.
But he also has a year to keep screwing up.
Today, the issue is crab legs and crawfish. Two years from now, when he has millions in the bank, what might it be?