I was very distressed this morning when I turned on Mike & Mike and heard the hosts debating whether or not they would remove Jameis Winston, Florida State's all-everything QB, from Heisman consideration based on his name being linked with a supposed sexual battery allegation in December of 2012. Mike Golic, usually the more reasonable of the two hosts, said if asked to vote today, he would not vote for Winston. His co-host, Mike Greenberg, then chimed in with the exact thought that entered my mind when I heard Golic's confession: whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty"?
The legal system of the United States is based upon the principle that all people accused of a crime are considered innocent until the legal process runs it's course and said accused are proven (without a reasonable doubt) to be guilty of their crime. What Golic, and I fear many more Heisman voters, fails to recognize is that to not include Winston (the clear cut favorite, and most deserving, of all candidates) for Heisman consideration is to condemn him of being guilty of sexual battery before ever even being charged with the crime itself.
If state attorney Willie Meggs had decided to charge Winston with the crime already, and if there were a scheduled trial looming, then one could understand the trepidation on the part of Heisman voters. Surely they would not want to award a player with it's most coveted prize only to have to take it back some time later. But that is not the case here; Winston has been charged with nothing! According to most reports, whatever happened on December 7, 2012 appears to be setting up to become an entirely circumstantial "he said, she said" scenario, one in which the truth may never be known except by those parties involved. How would those voters feel if they decided to omit Winston from consideration, only to find out soon thereafter that no charges would be filed against the redshirt freshman QB? How would they feel if they eventually found out that this incident was entirely fabricated by a young woman who felt jilted by her lover and was seeking revenge? How would they feel if they cost a young man, guilty only of doing what young men sometimes do (use poor judgment), college football's most prestigious award? What message would we be sending to future generations in doing so? Innocent until proven guilty? Hardly; more like guilty before ever being charged.
Jameis Winston is one of the most refreshing personalities to enter college football in years. Devoid of the brash arrogance of Johnny Manziel, Winston was truly a breath of fresh air this season. He was the best player on (arguably) the best team in the nation. His leadership ability was unmatched and rarely seen in a first-year, redshirt freshman starting quarterback. He possessed an infectious smile that lit up locker rooms, television cameras, and living rooms across the nation. But one can't help but notice that that smile is a little less bright these days; hIs personality a little less booming; his confidence a little less unchecked. As the Seminoles inch ever closer to a possible national championship, the end of a magical dream season is fast approaching. Unfortunately, the sexual battery allegations do not appear to be going away any time soon, and the weight of those allegations is clearly weighing on Winston.
State Attorney Willie Meggs continues to move back dates, vital information continues to be leaked to the press, and the mere possibility of potential charges threatens to derail everything Winston and the Seminoles have worked so hard for this season. Just as quickly as America welcomed Winston into their homes with his pre-game declaration of "doing it big" against Clemson, so too has America (or at the very least the media-types like Golic) apparently convicted Winston in the court of public opinion. One can't help but be reminded of the prophetic observation of another attorney, Harvey Dent, from the Christopher Nolan masterpiece The Dark Knight, when he stated, "Either you die a hero, or you live long enough to become the villain." With Golic's open condemnation of Winston, it appears he has already decided that Winston, the hero, is dead, replaced now by Winston, the villain, before ever being charged with a crime. That, dear reader, is a shame...