First Pick — Please Don’t Let It Be Winston!

Mariota & Winston

Mariota & Winston

Steve Rand, Instructor

Today’s athletes are under heavy scrutiny. Just like politicians. Just like celebrated actors and actresses. Some of the scrutiny is warranted. Often it is not. Often it is us, the general public, peering into someone else’s personal life voyeuristically, which can be dangerous and creepy. Why do we need to know intimate details about Ray Rice’s marriage or Adrian Peterson’s children? The creepiness is created by mass media; the danger is a righteous general public adopting a holier-than-thou attitude toward others. With this said, and with the NFL draft happening in less than two weeks, one could say, without feeling the least bit self-righteous, Marcus Mariota, who played quarterback for Oregon University, should be selected long before Jameis Winston, who played quarterback for Florida State University, based solely on character.

It has been well-documented that the Florida State University football program is riddled with misconduct by players, employees, even fans, who happen to be local police. Young Mr. Winston circles in and out of these investigations, these allegations, these series of misconduct, ranging from profane public rants to theft to assault to rape. The latter being the most significant accusation by a young woman who filed a civil suit against Winston last week. Winston may very well be innocent of all of these charges and accusations levied by university students, university professors, and Tallahassee community members (Tallahassee being the home of Florida State University and the capitol of Florida), yet how do so many heinous allegations swirl around one person, Jameis Winston, and not another popular young man, Marcus Mariota. By all accounts, Mariota is a class act, a quiet leader and affable personality.

Mainstream media is great at galvanizing vitriol among folks, stoking condemnation and, at times, allowing poor journalism the space to assassinate a public figure’s character. There is a strong argument that Winston is not a victim of poor, sensationalized journalism. On the contrary, astute and highly touted presses have done some amazing investigative journalism only to find that Florida State football is so entrenched in the culture of Tallahassee it is hard to tell how high the rungs of misconduct climb. Therefore, clearly, there is some skepticism as to whom Jameis Winston is other than being a young man with a gift and a monstrous cloud of criminality looming over his early adult life. He’s only twenty-one years old!

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the first pick in the NFL draft, and the team may make Winston the first player selected overall. Keep in mind, Winston is the highest rated player skill-wise in this year’s draft. Mariota is rated fifth. And keep in mind Tampa is only 275 miles from Tallahassee. It is likely many Floridians can live with such a controversial figure. But something needs to be said about character when it comes to choosing the future leader of your franchise. Clearly, Winston’s face will not be draped across a box of Wheaties anytime soon. It would be a shame to see Winston selected number one overall, or even selected in the first round, because it would mean the National Football League mirrors the debauchery in The Wolf on Wall Street. A monstrous cloud of criminality looming large over a young man’s life should not be celebrated nor should it be simply dismissed as a call for penance. There is a time and place when and where condemnation will need to turn into redemption. Just not on Draft Day.