Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston is in the news again — starring in the clichéd role of troubled star athlete. Winston was caught on camera this week walking out of a Tallahassee Publix supermarket with $32.72 worth of crab legs and crawfish he now admits he shoplifted.
He must send a Thank You note to the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, which has chosen to treat shoplifting like littering rather than the crime it is. So far more than 200 adults, many of them college students caught shoplifting, have reportedly benefitted from the adult citation program. It’s a high-minded attempt to unclog the courts and help college students to graduate with degrees and without criminal records.
Instead of being driven away in handcuffs, Winston got the same punishment as the other nameless students. But he isn’t one of them. The responsibility of the Seminole football program rests on his shoulders. That’s a lot of pressure. That’s not his fault; he seems willing to give lip service to that fact.
“I realize that I am in the public eye and that my conduct needs to be above reproach,” Winston said in a statement released after the story blew up on social media, then in the national media.
I’m troubled by Winston’s lack of contrition.
“In a moment of youthful ignorance I walked out of the store without paying for one of the items,” his statement read.
That doesn’t sound like taking full responsibility. This statement reads like the work of a public relations department trying to put a good face on a bad situation. Winston’s signature doesn’t make it his statement. Even though it claims he’s not making excuses, it sounds as if he’s doing just that.
“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.”
This is not to pile on, but it seems as if Winston has not learned from events of the last six months – that is, from the sexual assault allegations. Anyone who came that close to losing it all should be behaving like an altar boy. Instead, Winston seems to be living in the star athlete’s bubble of denial, hoping that his talent will keep him out of prison even if he keeps screwing up. Someone needs to sit Winston down and have a man-to-man conversation. ASAP.
For this latest indiscretion, Winston was issued an “adult citation” for which he must complete 20 hours of community service and counseling. I hope his assignment includes Saturday morning roadside cleanup crews. Winston, a closer for the Seminoles, has been suspended from the baseball team – for an undisclosed number of games. But what about the football team? Let’s see if head coach Jimbo Fisher has the courage to step up and hit Winston where it really hurts. He might finally get the message.
Andrew J. Skerritt is author of “Ashamed to Die: Silence, Denial and the AIDS Epidemic in the South.” He lives in Tallahassee. Follow him on Twitter @andrewjskerritt. Column courtesy of Context Florida.