Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bittersweet Symphony

                Last year I wrote about Jameis Winston – former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback who led Florida State University to a national championship in college football and was the number one overall draft pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last spring.  The same guy who passed for more than 4,000 yards, threw 22 touchdown passes and rushed for 6 more while leading his team to 6 victories in his rookie season.  Possible NFL Rookie-Of-The-Year. The guy just chosen to replace Tom Brady in this weekend’s Pro Bowl – the first time in Tampa Bay’s four decade history that they will send a rookie quarterback to the Pro Bowl game.
            In the same post, I detailed the sexual assault claims brought against Winston by Erica Winston who alleged that he drugged and raped her in his apartment.  Criminal charges were never pursued, in part because FSU administrators hindered the investigation and Tallahassee police dragged their feet for ten months, failing to properly investigate Kinsman’s claims, even though semen collected from her underwear matched Winston’s DNA (and how is it, that if you leave a thumbprint at the scene of a crime, police will haul you off to jail faster than Winston can run a 40 yard dash but a DNA fingerprint means ab-so-fucking-lutely nothing when it involves rape and sexual assault?). Kinsman was forced to leave school while Winston rode out of Tallahassee on a 4 year/$23.35 million contract.
            Yesterday FSU settled a Federal Title IX lawsuit with Kinsman – agreeing to pay $950,000 (including attorney’s fees), and making a five year commitment to awareness, prevention, and training programs on campus, although not admitting liability. A Title IX investigation by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is still ongoing, AND Kinsman's suit against Winston (and his counter-suit) is scheduled to be heard in 2017 by the US District Court.
             University president James Thrasher released a statement saying,
            “We have an obligation to our students, their parents and Florida taxpayers to deal with this case, as we do all litigation, in a financially responsible manner.  With all the economic demands we face, at some point it doesn’t make sense to continue even though we are convinced we would have prevailed.”
            Which, if translated into terms every sexual assault survivor understands, amounts to a huge “fuck you.”
            Forget about any obligation to Kinsman or victims of assaults or doing the right thing.  There is no “right thing”.  If you’re a woman on a college campus there is a 1 in 4 chance you will be a victim of a sexual assault.  This was all about the university saving money - what the settlement means is that the school won’t have to explain what it does to enable its athletes to continue playing football as well as other sports, regardless of what they do off the field.  Clearly what matters most at FSU and at too many universities throughout the country is the economics of having a successful football program – that outweighs the harm done to the victim.
            “I will always be disappointed that I had to leave the school I dreamed of attending since I was little,” Kinsman said in a statement.  “I am happy that FSU has committed to continue making changes in order to ensure a safer environment for all students.”
            Jameis Winston takes his $23.35 million contract (with a guaranteed $16+ million) to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.  The first time a rookie quarterback from Tampa Bay goes to the Pro Bowl, even if he is an unrepentant sexual predator. Certainly not the first one to play in the NFL or the Pro Bowl.
            Erica Kinsman continues trying to put her life back together.

           You can hear more about Erica’s story and the film “The Hunting Ground” here

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