By Nancy Armour |
The only way the NFL’s announcement of Jameis Winston’s suspension could have been more insulting was if it slapped a pink ribbon on the letterhead.
The league said Thursday that its investigation found a complaint by an Uber driver who accused Winston of groping her in March 2016 to be “consistent and credible.” That the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback had touched the driver “in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent.”
In other words, Winston sexually assaulted the woman.
And for that, he got a whopping three-game suspension.
For those keeping score, Winston’s punishment is half the supposed baseline for domestic and sexual violence – a benchmark the NFL rarely meets, mind you. It’s also a game less than Tom Brady got for the heinous crime of lying about deflated footballs.
But, please, tell me again how much the league cares about women.
When the NFL suspended Ezekiel Elliott six games for beating up his then-girlfriend, it seemed as if the league had finally turned a corner in its abysmal response to domestic and sexual violence. Ignoring pressure from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Commissioner Roger Goodell decided the woman was credible and Elliott was not, relying heavily on photos and text messages documenting the abuse.
Given Winston’s punishment, however, it would seem Elliott’s real crime was not bowing before the almighty commissioner.
Winston appears to have cooperated with the investigation, and has already said he will not appeal his punishment. Apparently that’s worth three games of grace.
But it shouldn’t be. Especially not for Winston.
“It is uncharacteristic of me and I genuinely apologize,” he said in a statement.
Except it’s not uncharacteristic of him. Winston came into the league with a strike against him, after a female student said he raped her while at Florida State. He denied it, saying he and the woman had had consensual sex, but it was later determined that neither Tallahassee police nor Florida State had done anything to investigate what Erica Kinsman said Winston did.
Winston eventually settled a lawsuit with Kinsman, who has since come forward to be named publicly, and Florida State agreed to pay her almost $1 million dollars. That’s a lot of smoke if there’s supposedly no fire.
Oh, and one of the players who lied for Winston, sorry, vouched for Winston in the Uber case? None other than Ronald Darby, who just happened to back up Winston’s story at Florida State, too.
There also was Winston’s lewd comment — “(expletive) her right in the (expletive)” — shouted from a table in the middle of campus, which got him suspended for a game.
If any player should have been on his best behavior and gone out of his way to avoid even the suggestion of trouble, it was Winston. But according to him, he’s only just now figuring out that women are not his to disrespect and debase.
“In the past 2½ years my life has been filled with experiences, opportunities and events that have helped me grow, mature and learn, including the fact that I have eliminated alcohol from my life,” Winston said.
That’s great, and I hope he’s sincere. But there are now at least two women whose lives he has ruined, and the NFL’s lax punishment tells them and everyone else that that’s no big deal. Certainly not on par with deflating footballs.
The NFL likes to make a big show of how much it values women in October, when it slathers pink on just about any piece of equipment and merchandise it can find. But its laughably light discipline of Winston shows the league’s true colors.
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.