On Thursday, April 30th, the NFL will face the first true test of allegiance to its “NO MORE” anti-sexual assault and domestic violence campaign. It’ll be a quick test, lasting no more than ten minutes and it begins once the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, holders of the first pick in this year’s draft, are on the clock. The test consists of one simple and straightforward question; will Jameis Winston be the first pick of the 2015 NFL Draft?
You remember Jameis Winston right? Famous Jameis they call him… starting quarterback for the 2014 BCS National Champion (and 2015 runner-up) Florida State Seminoles, youngest player ever to win the Heisman Trophy. The same Jameis Winston who; caused thousands of dollars in damage to an apartment building during a pellet gun fight with teammates, was accused of a rape the Tallahassee police department conveniently hid for a year, who a few months later was caught shoplifting crab legs (and soda out of a fountain at a Burger King) and finally was suspended half-a-game for standing on a table in a busy cafeteria and yelling “fuck her right in the pussy” (you read that right, only that last offense earned him a suspension).
One wonders, if the NFL is serious about addressing sexual assault among its ranks, how could they allow an accused rapist to be the first pick in the draft immediately after the start of this campaign:
I understand that Winston wasn’t formally charged with rape and therefore was never found guilty (we all know the circumstances of his case and the reasons why he wasn’t charged). But come on NFL, you can’t tell us you’re taking a stand on this stuff then allow one of your teams to pick an accused rapist first! Especially when the player the accused rapist is being most compared to is former starting quarterback for the 2015 BCS National Champion Oregon Ducks, Heisman Trophy winner and all around model citizen, Marcus Mariota.
I’m well aware that the NFL has no control over a team’s draft picks, so I really should call out the Buccaneers instead of the NFL, yet I have a hard time believing that the NFL can’t convince the Bucs to choosing wisely. Still, the decision is the Buc’s to make and from what all the experts are saying, they are going with Winston.
As if to prep the Tampa Bay fan base, this article recently appeared in the Tampa Tribune (as well as similar stories in other news outlets). The article takes great pains to point out just how much vetting the Bucs are doing of not just Winston, but Mariota and other potential picks. The cherries on top of the PR sundae are the quotes about Winston’s “rigid, conservative family” and the “extremely high standards” his parents held him to. Yup, the Bucs have made up their mind and now they’re just trying to convince everyone else.
But it’s not to late, until the announcement is officially made they have time to change their minds. Perhaps the Bucs should heed the advice of someone else quoted in the same article, Mike Mayock, an analyst for the NFL Network who asks; “When kids have significant red flags, how often do they change?” then proceeds to say:
“I would say my perception and my experience is that, plus or minus, 90 percent of the time the kid ultimately turns into who he’s always been. So when you get a repeated pattern of bad decisions, you might be on your best behavior leading up to the draft. You’ve got all kinds of people around you, telling you what to say and how to act. But once you get comfortable, whether it’s one year in, two years in, three years in, once you get comfortable again in the NFL and you get paid, typically that kid goes back to being who he always was.”
My experience, like Mayock’s tells me that people don’t usually change… unless they’re given a powerful reason to do it (life altering repercussions for example). Has Winston ever been given a reason to change? I can’t say for sure, obviously, but from the outside looking in I’d call winning a Heisman, a national championship and (if it happens) being the #1 pick in the NFL draft despite a history of troubling behavior = no repercussions which = absolutely no incentive to change.
One of the articles I linked to earlier, “Jameis Winston’s Elaborate Campaign to Be Trusted as the NFL Draft’s No. 1 Pick” written by Dan Pompei of Bleacher Report ends with the claim; “The NFL needs Jameis Winston.” Hold up Dan, what the hell are you talking about? What a ridiculous statement! No, the NFL does not need Winston. He needs the NFL to not pick him first (if at all) so that he’s finally given a reason to change. Because if he gets drafted first then he’ll most likely end up one of the 90% who “ultimately turns back into who he’s always been” and he’ll drag the NFL back with him.
The NFL on the other hand needs Mariota (and plenty more like him). This draft above all others, they need a stellar athlete with a great reputation and a clean history picked first. The NFL needs to make an unequivocal statement about its commitment to change. Mariota helps.
So come on Buccaneers, it’s all on you now. Will you follow the advice of the NFL’s currently hollow PR campaign and say: NO MORE ignorance, NO MORE excuses, NO MORE (accused rapists getting picked first)… thus giving the campaign some real meaning? Or will you do what everyone expects and give yet another problem child an excuse to remain a problem?
I’ll be watching Thursday night and even though I have my doubts, I really hope you’ll surprise us all.