Week 15 of college football was perhaps the best of the entire year. At least, as long as your favorite team won. For some athletes, this weekend marked the accumulation of years of relentless hard work. For others, dreams were crushed in a matter of minutes. It really was a weekend that showcased all of the best aspects of sports.
Florida State University and quarterback Jameis Winston were among those who were celebrating the most. After wrapping up an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championship and a probable bid to the national title game, everyone on the team seemed to be on cloud nine. Then, amidst the celebration, a reporter began asking Winston about his recent sexual assault case. As the questions kept coming, Winston decidedly walked away, leaving some unanswered.
For those watching, the tone of the celebration took a slight change. The question and response was a brutal reminder that behind the big stage that these athletes play on there is still the possibility of some ugly controversy waiting to be unveiled. After all, athletes are human too and prone to mistakes just like anyone else.
And yet, are athletes always treated like everyone else? How often does it seem that an athlete is charged for a crime only to be let off suspiciously easily? Sure, many athletes tend to be able to afford the best attorneys, but is that really all there is to it?
College sports have a dark history with instances of sexual assault, with several cases of reports not being handled properly. However, the problem really is much broader than that. There are multiple cases of crimes involving athletes, regardless of how small they are, resulting in a simple slap on the wrist.
That’s not to say that Winston was guilty. Too many facts were inconsistent for any sort of conclusion to be found.
We will likely never know the answers to the aforementioned questions, just like no one will ever know what really happened except Winston and his accuser. Guilty or not, many will say that the effects of this episode will stain Winston’s reputation for the rest of his career. For some, there is some justice in this. After all, many will believe he is guilty regardless of what evidence is released.
That being said, time has a habit of eroding these controversies from the public mind. Athletes like Kobe Bryant and Ray Lewis were both accused of very serious crimes, and many were “convinced” that both were guilty. Yet, recent deeds by both athletes have made many forget, and both are rarely mentioned anymore.
The deeds of a few college and professional athletes in no way reflect the rest of their peers, as most are impressive individuals. However, cases such as Winston’s bring up a difference in treatment that is impossible to ignore. What’s even worse is the standards they set. When athletes “get off easy” it sets a bad precedent, for if athletes are not given proper consequences while in college, it’s hard to expect them to change their behavior when they hit the pros.