Famous Jameis coverage part of the problem

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Saturday evening’s nationally televised college football game between the Clemson Tigers and Florida State Seminoles was a perfect example of our media adding to a growing problem. Florida State, the defending national champions, picked by many to repeat this year, faced a stubborn Clemson squad who held a late 17 to 10 lead before losing to the Seminoles in overtime. Unfortunately, rather than focusing on a great defensive battle between ACC rivals, The American Broadcasting Company — ABC — chose to focus on suspended Florida State star quarterback, Jameis Winston, with constant sideline shots of him and virtually no commentary on his off field behavior that caused his suspension.

The Rose Bowl in Pasadena during the BCS National Championship Game, January 6, 2014. (YouTube)
The Rose Bowl in Pasadena during the BCS National Championship Game, January 6, 2014.

Winston was suspended, at first for just the opening half of the game and then later extended for the entire game, when FSU officials learned of the vile and offensive remarks he made in the middle of the student union. “Famous Jameis,” as he is commonly referred to, thought nothing of standing on top of a table and shouting incredibly insensitive remarks toward women, even though he knows he is the most notable student on the FSU campus. Furthermore, he only apologized after he was called on the carpet by his coach and school officials. In this day of social media, he went so far as to actually think no one would post anything negative about what they witnessed.

This is the same Jameis Winston who in his short time at Florida State has managed to be the subject of an on-going university investigation, that many believed was first swept under the rug, for sexual assault.

  • The controversy surrounding the botched investigation by the Tallahassee Police Department is a topic of inquiry that begs to be explored all on its own.

It is also the same Jameis Winston who was investigated for shooting out windows with a BB gun. And lets not forget the two times he has been cited for theft, the most recent of which shows him on a surveillance camera walking into a Florida store and picking up seafood only to walk out without paying for it. All he had to say for this was it was the result of his “youthful ignorance.”

Throughout all of this, the only thing Jameis Winston seems to have learned while at Florida State is: if you win the Heisman Trophy and quarterback your team to the national title, you can pretty much do as you please without facing any consequences.  This might explain why, even though he was suspended from the game, Winston dressed out in his uniform and joined his team mates for pregame drills — only to be escorted back to the locker room. Was he instructed to remain there as part of his suspension?  Apparently not because Jameis joined his team and watched the game from the sideline.

Now none of this is the fault of ABC sports, which covered the game. However, this has to be pointed out: it is the fault of ABC Sports for making Jameis the focal point of the game with their constant sideline shots of him between plays and next to nothing in commentary on his behavior. About the harshest thing that came out of the mouths of those calling the game were comments suggesting Jameis might feel bad if his team loses. Really? The problem might be Jameis Winston does not feel anything which might explain his off field behavior.

ABC Sports, and their sister network ESPN, have a huge financial interest in college football and this year’s new NCAA football playoff. They chose to go easy on Winston and the FSU coaching staff fearing they may need to play them up favorably come playoff time.

However, it was also ESPN that broke the news Friday of a possible coverup by the Baltimore Ravens in regards to the Ray Rice investigation. Both ABC and ESPN have grilled NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL owners for failing to grasp the magnitude of the problem that exists with player behavior and then turned around a day later and dropped the ball while covering their prime time college game of the week.

 Jameis Winston received major star treatment during the BCS championship game, Jan. 6, 2014. (YouTube)
Jameis Winston received major star treatment during the BCS championship game, Jan. 6, 2014.

ABC did not do fans of football who are tired of the off field antics of players a favor with Saturday’s coverage. Jameis Winston did not receive the same treatment that Ray Rice received. Florida State coaches and officials did not receive the same criticism as Baltimore Ravens officials received. And the NCAA was not torn apart for the culture they have ignored like Roger Goodell and the NFL have been for the past two weeks.

Why do we see what seems to be such a high rate of disturbing and unacceptable off field behavior by NFL players? The answer lies in part because the same behavior is ignored and covered up by colleges and the NCAA. Beyond a few Florida State women, no one seems to care that the current face of college football is a young man whose off field behavior is only tolerated because of the money he  generates for Florida State and the NCAA coffers. ABC failed miserably in their journalistic duty Saturday night which has only added to the growing problem of player behavior.

Until networks like ABC consistently cover off field player behavior at all levels, the NFL will continue to be left entirely responsible for correcting what should be addressed long before it has a chance to reach them.