The Cost of Doing Nothing

By Johnny Ginter on April 18, 2014 at 2:29p
45 Comments

I really like sports. Yay sports! Specifically, Ohio State sports. Yay Ohio State sports!

Here's what I like even more than that: justice for the people that deserve it.

The New York Times recently ran an article about the botched investigation into Jameis Winston's alleged sexual assault. If you care, even one tiny bit, about the rights of people to be heard and fairly protected by the institutions of this country, then said article will make you really, really angry.

This isn't so much a sports story as it is a cultural story; people like Jameis Winston beat charges for a whole host of reasons. Wealth, popularity, simply knowing a dude, whatever, leads to a miscarriages of justice on a regular basis. But what's important is that we, as sports fans, don't allow ourselves to become complicit in a system that venerates and lauds people to the point of excusing behavior. And that's the part of the NYTimes expose that I'd like to address today. To wit:

Records show that Florida State’s athletic department knew about the rape accusation early on, in January 2013, when the assistant athletic director called the police to inquire about the case. Even so, the university did nothing about it, allowing Mr. Winston to play the full season without having to answer any questions. After the championship game, in January 2014, university officials asked Mr. Winston to discuss the case, but he declined on advice of his lawyer.

As the article points out, this isn't just disgusting, it's in direct violation of federal law (the same kind of laws that Penn State violated in their efforts to ignore Jerry Sandusky). This is also a troubling indicator of a trend that becomes more apparent as the article goes on.

Important, but not the most important

The article talks at length about the overall handling of the investigation, which was more clown show than Law and Order. The lead detective didn't do due diligence in collecting evidence, as brusque with the accuser, and overall appeared to do a sloppy job. This, however, is the most damning aspect of it all:

With Mr. Winston identified, the next logical step would have been to quickly obtain his DNA. Officer Angulo decided against it. Ms. Carroll, the accuser’s lawyer, said the officer told her that testing Mr. Winston’s DNA might generate publicity. “I specifically asked and he refused,” Ms. Carroll said.

This is what the accused getting more protection than a possible victim looks like. We can bring up examples like the Duke Lacrosse case ad infinitum to try and point out why "innocent until proven guilty" is important, and it is, but that should not allow anyone to get in the way of due process.

And frankly, we as sports fans can't get in the way either. During the lead up to this investigation, the alleged victim was mocked on Florida State message boards, accused of being a gold digger seeking either fame or money. It's the same tired old accusations made by Penn State fans on their message boards, and it's the same kind of things that people were saying in Steubenville in 2012.

Here's really my only point, and one I don't want to belabor:

I feel that as a writer with a semi-large reach, I have a duty to be as fair and even-handed as I can be. If I see or hear about an Ohio State football player or coach doing something that I view to be morally wrong, it's my responsibility to talk about it honestly. As a human being, it's my responsibility to talk about it honestly.

That's why comments like this one are so frustrating:

“I learned quickly what football meant in the South,” said Mr. Ruiz, who grew up in New York State. “Clearly, it meant a lot. And with respect to this case I learned that keeping players on the field was a priority.”

The unspoken message there is that the greater Tallahassee community has their priorities wrong when it comes to sports. I don't know if that's true or not, but I do know that I would rather see The Ohio State University ban all varsity sports forever, than for our collective love of sports to allow one Buckeye to get away with a crime on the magnitude of sexual assault.

I will say this: I think that Ohio State is much better equipped than most large fanbases to be on the right side of life. Time and time again we've shown that the integrity of the program is more important than any one person, and I love that. As much as it has ripped my guts out on more than one occasion, and as oftentimes has been an overbearing response to small infractions, I love that.

So we have the choice, as people, to make sure that this kind of thing doesn't happen here. We can agree that our priorities are to make sure that potential victims are protected above all else, and to make sure that justice is done, no matter what path that takes. That doesn't prevent us from being Ohio State fans; if anything, if makes it easier because we'll know that we made the right choice.

45 Comments

Comments

Deadly Nuts's picture

Question: Could the NCAA vacate FSU's entire championship season for allowing Winston to play or will they hold back after all the hate they got from jumping into the PSU case?

LEBRON

+1 HS
Johnny Ginter's picture

i think a better question is: does that matter, even a little bit? what i mean is, i dont think FSU, which hired bobby bowden for a billion years, gives two craps about having to vacate anything

TheBadOwl's picture

Obviously this piece is about not allowing our fandom to make us turn a blind eye to crimes, but there's another part of fandom that happens with these cases, specifically with Penn State and now, with Winston.

There's always the reprehensible, yet inevitable celebration from opposing fans.

The Penn State thing was terrible and, while it's not necessarily a problem on 11W, commenters still make jokes about rape at Penn State, some more subtle than others, but all of which are unnecessary and reflect poorly upon the fans who make those jokes.

And this past season, when the Winston controversy first surfaced, some people were giddy at the prospect of Winston being found guilty, because it meant that we would move up to #2 and get a shot at the national championship. And now people are asking if FSU will vacate their title, as if that actually matters.

So while the cult-like, irrational defense of Winston (there were some awful comments on the /r/cfb thread from users with FSU flair) and Paterno (the infamous, but hopefully few fans who still yell that the entire thing was a conspiracy) is generally cringe-worthy, the celebration from the other side is just as bad.

Of course, Tatgate was extremely trivial compared to the Tallahassee PD's botched investigation, but it's still an interesting case study in fan behavior. People here are still incredibly sensitive about Tatgate, and I think this makes some people act unnecessarily vindictive and immature when it comes to other scandals.

I remember when the Se'Von Pittman sexual assault thing first hit the press (speaking of which, what ever happened there?), and one of the first comments on 11W was "This will be front page on ESPN." People were legitimately more upset about the prospect of Ohio State getting bad press than they were about some girl potentially getting sexually assaulted.

And let's not pretend like nobody here ever made a "Hey NCAA, this whole Penn State thing makes free tattoos seem kinda trivial, eh?" joke. 

College football fandom can give us some great experiences, and as you said in the article, it can blind us to bad things happening in our own backyards. I'd like to go one further, and say that it turns us into vindictive assholes who make jokes about things that should not be joked about, simply because we dislike another team or fan base.

When the Penn State scandal happened, I was a freshman here. My mother is a PSU alum and I grew up as a huge fan, but as an Ohio kid, I decided to attend OSU and could not be happier. But at the OSU/PSU game, a mere couple of weeks after the scandal hit, I was surrounded by drunk assholes making jokes about child rape.

The sickening part is that those drunk assholes were also my fellow Buckeyes. They were people that I'd see in class the following Monday. And I'm sure most of them would get really pissed off is someone made a joke about free tattoos.

So, no, the actual sports impact of the Winston thing does not matter at all. Just like how the NCAA forcing Penn State to vacate a few hundred wins did absolutely nothing to help the victims. Turning the sports impact of rape into a #HotTake is really, really cringe-worthy to me.

Sorry for the long rant (edit: holy crap this is longer than I thought it would be), I guess I'm just sick of a lot of fan behavior. We always say that we have the Best Damn Fans in the Land, and I think a lot of us aren't living up to that moniker.

When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half mast I thought, "Alright, another bureaucrat ate it." but then I saw it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.

+6 HS
Buckeyeneer's picture

Great rant, BadOwl. I found you to generally be on point. I would make one comment  in regards to:

And now people are asking if FSU will vacate their title, as if that actually matters.

I know where you are coming from here, but let's remember the general consensus on the lesson learned from Tatgate, "The cover up was worse than the crime." Now, I know, Tats for trinkets is nothing like rape, but I argue that by making the punishment so severe that covering up the crime is not worth the risk, I think that would be positive.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

+2 HS
chemicalwaste's picture

I see that 3 people down voted you who apparently like rape.

-4 HS
OSU_1992_UFM's picture

Apparently 5 didn't care for you either lol

UFM_Renewal

+2 HS
chemicalwaste's picture

I knew it would draw a little attention. Not too worried about it.

-1 HS
nm_buck's picture

I remember when the Se'Von Pittman sexual assault thing first hit the press (speaking of which, what ever happened there?), and one of the first comments on 11W was "This will be front page on ESPN." People were legitimately more upset about the prospect of Ohio State getting bad press than they were about some girl potentially getting sexually assaulted.

It is totally possible, and appropriate, for Buckeye fans to have been concerned about the bad press in this situation.  Doesn't mean they don't care about the girl.  Maybe they care about the university.  Maybe they care about the other 100 student athletes on the team.

And let's not pretend like nobody here ever made a "Hey NCAA, this whole Penn State thing makes free tattoos seem kinda trivial, eh?" joke. 

I got news for ya... the free tattoo scandal WAS trivial... even without the context of alleged rape at FSU or documented child molestation at Penn State.  Ask DeVier Posey if his 3 dollars of unearned pay was worth a 5 game suspension.  

+2 HS
Whoa Nellie's picture

TBO,

I understand what you're saying, and agree that fanbase Schadenfreude is often expressed in a reprehensible way.  But, I have to disagree that it's just as bad as the fanbase attitude that allows it to turn a blind eye to potential criminal conduct.  The latter actually enables local cops, pols, and administrators to sweep the dirt under a rug without consequences.  If not for that attitude, "detective" Argulo would be employed as a security guard at former State's attorney Meggs' Postal Annex store.  Instead, they are enjoying the perks and notoriety of being the guys who saved the championship season, along with lifetime tenure at their jobs.  Just my POV, and no DV from me.

“Don’t fear criticism. The stands are full of critics. They play no ball. They fight no fights. They make no mistakes because they attempt nothing. Down on the field are the doers, they make mistakes because they attempt many things.”

ABrown07's picture

One of the strongest cases I've ever read about for something like this where a sports figure got away with something due to fame, money, etc. is Donte Stallworth. He committed vehicular manslaughter while drunk and ONLY SERVED 30 DAYS AND PAID THE FAMILY!!!! If that were any of us on here we would've been put in prison for a decade or longer. I hate that our justice system allows "famous" people to get away with murder (literally) while the rest of us suffer the real consequences.

I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people.
-Woody Hayes

+5 HS
chemicalwaste's picture

I hear you on that, but more disgusting that he got off that easily is that the family was just fine with money.

hit_the_couch's picture

I don't know how drunk Stallworth was that morning, but when the man says one is at or beyond the legal limit, it doesn't mean they can't function. The numbers have changed over the years due federal demand and more funding for states.

The guy Stallworth hit was jaywalking on a 50 mph highway at dusk. Thus making him difficult to see, and the man obviously wasn't paying attention. It was sated that Stallworth slowed, flashed his lights but it was too late. He also did do the right thing and stop and wait on the police.

He likely shouldn't have been drivinng, but I don't fully put the blame on him. People (pedestrians) jaywalk all the time no matter where, don't pay attention and expect cars to stop on a dime for them and don't feel they have done anything wrong. People get hit on Sinclair rd in Columbus all the time from not paying attention and crossi g at dusk. I've damn near hit someone twice because I couldn't see them at dusk or dawn and I haven't drank in years.

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

+9 HS
FitzBuck's picture

Thank you for giving the details.  It make a huge difference in something that sounds black and white.

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

+2 HS
ABrown07's picture

I read in the columbus dispatch that Stallworth hit the guy on the sidewalk, the guy wasn't on the road so if he was drunk enough to go on the sidewalk I'd say it's safe to say he shouldn't have been driving and thus spent more than 30 days in a county jail...

I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people.
-Woody Hayes

The Rill Dill's picture

We gone do it big?  We gone do it big din.

-5 HS
johnblairgobucks's picture

FSU has reprimanded 2 other men that were in the room the night of the event, that the accuser didn't even file a complaint on.  Almost seems as if the 2 guys were getting some punishment for actually talking with investigators and cooperating with the investigation (12) months later.

There are two sides to ever story, but with Winston failing/refusing to cooperate and speak with officials....... Give his side, why have the scales of justice tipped so far in his favor?  He said, she said, right?  Well she has done all she could (Police report, hospital rape kit, continued to seek investigation after being ignored for 10 months) , and he just layered up...... Seems as if the scales of justice would be tipped the other way.   It really just doesn't add up.

+10 HS
NitroBuck's picture

Nothing says Heisman quite like clamming up based on the advice of a lawyer.

Ferio.  Tego.

+3 HS
southbay's picture

Good point...I guess he had what she needed: a good stiffarm.

-1 HS
Jack Fu's picture

Nothing says Heisman quite like clamming up based on the advice of a lawyer.

This is just stupid. He did what every single halfway-decent lawyer would advise, and what every a person convicted of a crime should do. Whether he committed the crime or not, had the right to not incriminate himself and to tell the police "prove that I did anything wrong." Unfortunately, from the look of things, the TPD had no desire to even try.

+3 HS
NitroBuck's picture

Do you think Ohio State would let a player get away with that?  I don't.  The norm in Columbus is to suspend the player until he gets his legal affairs sorted out.  TPD was underwhelming in its investigation, and FSU chose to look the other way rather than press the issue.  You are correct in that any lawyer worth his salt would advise his client to remain silent.  At the same time, it leaves all who follow the case wondering just what is he hiding?  It certainly should have raised that question in the minds of the Heisman voters, as that award has traditionally been largely about character as well as athletic prowess.  

Ferio.  Tego.

Jack Fu's picture

Would an Ohio State player "get away with" what? Refusing to speak, on the advice of counsel? I would hope so. Also, your original comment was not about Florida State; it was an implication that Winston was somehow a lesser person by availing himself of his right against self-incrimination, which is only in the goddamn Constitution of this country.

And seriously, more to the point of the article: who gives two shits about the Heisman when we're talking about whether or not a rape allegation was investigated properly?

NitroBuck's picture

My point isn't about his goddamn right to remain silent, Jack.  We all have that right, and I'm thankful that we do. But it comes at a cost, especially in the court of public opinion.  Does that make Winston a lesser person?  No, but it sure as hell does tarnish his image.  And rightfully so, because it makes him look like he's got something to hide.  My comment was a slap at Winston, at FSU, the piss poor investigation, and the falling standards of the Heisman.  I think you are sadly mistaken if you think Ohio State would have handled the issue like FSU did.  I have little doubt that OSU would have urged him to cooperate fully with the investigation, and suspended him until the issue was resolved.  Sad that you are not multi-faceted enough to care about both the Heisman and getting a rape allegation investigated properly.

Ferio.  Tego.

NitroBuck's picture

Typical Michigan arrogance.  Can't admit it when you got it wrong.

Ferio.  Tego.

dumpus's picture

I think that Ohio State is much better equipped than most large fanbases to be on the right side of life.

With all due respect, I'm sure the lovely people of Happy Valley and Steubenville felt the same way.  It's easy to be complacent about the hidden sociopathy that lies dormant in a large fanbase, only to tear forth with a fury when an event occurs that requires fans to choose between their moral/ethical values and their favorite football team.   

Time will tell on our end, of course.  When you mix hormone-crazed young men with an atmosphere of privilege and entitlement, its not a matter of if, but when.  It can happen anywhere, and in time it will happen anywhere.  

+9 HS
Johnny Ginter's picture

you're right about that last part, and i hope that if we're aware of it, we wont make the same mistakes.

"i think that" might be better read as "i'd like to think that"

mobboss1984's picture

I agree, all fanbases are equally the same. I love Ohio State, but we are not exempt at all. 

Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.
Bruce Lee
 

+3 HS
ibuck's picture

all fanbases are equally the same.

mobboss, do you really think that? That Princeton or Harvard or Yale fans are the same as Alabama, Florida or FSU fans? Did you read the following in the Meet the Bag Man story?

"We can only get away with whatever's considered reasonable by the majority of the folks in our society. That's why it's different in the SEC. Maybe that's why we're able to be more active in what we do. Because no one ever looks at the car or the jewelry and says, 'How did you get that, poor football player?' They say, 'How did they get you that and not get caught, poor football player?'"

There might not be a cultural mandate, but describing an October Saturday in the South as a culture accepting of this behavior would be a raging understatement.

Would you be OK with bribing prospective players not to take visits at UM or PSU? 

When you say " I love Ohio State, but we are not exempt at all", I hope you mean that there are overzealous chowderheads that follow Ohio State. Folks who would slip illicit bucks to OSU athletes in a bit of egotism that endangers the Buckeyes scholarship levels or postseason eligibility?   Probably.  But not a culture of OSU fans accepting this behavior.  No.

Our honor defend, we will fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

+3 HS
TheBadOwl's picture

People here always talk about how ESPN is out to get Ohio State, then they act like all Penn State fans are crazy because a minority of them claim that the NCAA is out to get them.

It's really easy to say that we have great fans who wouldn't freak out and defend something that's indefensible, but the fact that people are still extremely sensitive about Tatgate says a lot about our fanbase. It's three years later, Tressel lied to the NCAA, and our program is in a better place Tressel knew that his players were breaking the rules and covered it up. But ESPN is the real villain for investigating that?

And you know what? I still love Tressel. We all do. We all try to justify his actions, we all point to the work he's done for the community, as we should. But to everyone else, we look crazy for doing this.

When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half mast I thought, "Alright, another bureaucrat ate it." but then I saw it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.

-2 HS
ibuck's picture

Owl, I think you over-generalize. Yes there are some OSU fans that are off balance (and I'm not suggesting you are one). But overall, OSU fans seem more reasonable, and expect consequences when OSU athletes misbehave.

A bunch of OSU fans demanded OSU act when starting LB Robert Reynolds choked Wisconsin QG Sorgi in 2003, leading to Reynolds suspension. And on more recent occasions as well. Contrast what happened to RB Carlos Hyde compared to Jameis Winston.

Our honor defend, we will fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

+5 HS
nm_buck's picture

Contrast what happened to RB Carlos Hyde compared to Jameis Winston.

heh... the truth hurts. 

+3 HS
southbay's picture

Botched?  You mean there is nothing more going on here than some bumbling?

mr.green's picture

We will never know what happened because of the botched police investigation but an investigation into how FSU and the Tallahassee cops handled the matter is in order.  I also hope that if the NCAA reviews the Penn State sanctions they will look into the actions of FSUs president and how closely they were looked into by the PSU board before he was hired to lead Penn State   The great crimes at both these schools, in my opinion, were by failed leadership above the athletic department. Great article Johnny.  

IBLEEDSCARLETANDGRAY's picture

I don't give a crap about Winston or FSU or the whole state of Florida (and I live here). I DO care about a potential victim possibly not getting any justice. The $64,000 hypothetical question: Was there a rape? We will never know will we? I slightly pity Winston who could've used a proper investigation to 100% clear his name. No matter what happens in his future that stigma will hang over him, guilty or not.

I do know one thing. You can keep covering stuff up but what happens when a player does the unthinkable like what happened with Baylor's basketball program several years ago? What if that players goes full postal? The culture of covering things up then becomes detrimental to the safety of others. Cough, cough Penn State, cough.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

skid21's picture

No matter what happens in his future that stigma will hang over him, guilty or not.

I really think this is laughable. It didn't stop him from winning the Heisman and, unless more is revealed, it won't stop him from being a top draft pick and making millions.

southbay's picture

I think Kobe and Big Ben would agree with you.

pdan46's picture

I just want Justice for both the Accuser and Winston. Unfortunately, neither seems likely to get Justice.  The University and the Tallahassee Police should be ashamed of themselves!

+1 HS
FitzBuck's picture

As much as it sickens me to post this, UMs student government and newspaper should be commended for what they have done in regards to A LT and kicker and what they may or may not have done.  

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

M Man's picture

So this is interesting...

You are "impressed" by Michigan's student government and the Michigan Daily.  And I am thoroughly unimpressed.  How's that for an unlikely exchange on Eleven Warriors?!?  

This needs to be a respectful exchange, between you and I.  I understand where you are coming from; and I don't for a moment doubt the sincerity of your opinion or your good motives.  I owe you that respect, and more.

Let me tell you, respectfully, why I think your commendation for my alma mater may be misplaced.

First, as to the Michigan Daily.  The Daily was leaked a copy of a letter that went to Gibbons informing him of his expulsion.  The leak was almost certainly a violation of state law, federal law and university policy.  The leak is or should be a firing offense and could result in imprisonment.  Somebody handed it to the Daily, and they then printed up the story.  The Daily also reported on the original incident back in 2009, and then (like everybody else) dropped it when the investigation when nowhere and never turned into a prosecution.  I like the Michigan Daily and it is one of the best collegiate newspapers in the nation with a list of alumni that would make major metropolitan newspapers jealous.  But for the life of me, I don't know what the Daily did that was so brilliant in the Gibbons case.

As for Michigan student government, the failure is much worse.  After the Daily story broke, savaging the privacy rights owed to Brendan Gibbons in a decidedly sub-legal proceeding, Michigan student government leaped into action, scolding everybody they could find for wrongs that nobody could very well describe and generally espousing the liberal/feminist political correctness that suffocates much of Ann Arbor.  MSG officers issued a small handful of finger-wagging statements that got the basic facts wrong and generally made a hash out of all the important legal issues.

And I want to assure you and all of the other smart football fans who populate this very fine forum.  I am not speaking as a partisan Wolverine here.  This isn't about football at all.  I have said to all of you that I see this happening with one of your own unlucky guys in the foreseeable future.  And when that happens, I will be on that guy's side to the precisely equivalent extent that I am on Gibbons' side in this recent controversy.

This is really about politics, and about the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights under the current administration.  That other shoe has not yet fallen in Tallahassee.  I expect that it will.  How it does, will be very interesting. 

-1 HS
tussey's picture

Thank you for the write up.  I think the most unfortunate thing is that most likely justice won't be served in this case.

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

I doubt Winston is completely innocent of any wrongdoing. 

Class of 2010.

-1 HS
James Mee's picture

As someone who has a degree in criminal justice I find this whole thing appalling. While I realize that there is clearly a bias towards certain people, there shouldn't be and we should everything we can lessen this effect. Especially with something as important as rape. People need to be fired for what happened here. There was no real investigation and apparently no real effort to ever have one. This lead to very important evidence being lost. Someone should have to pay for this. 

I would like to commend the New York Times on their investigation. I just really hope that if something like this happened at Ohio State that the Columbus Police would do an actual investigation. 

+1 HS
UABuckeye's picture

I've seen several post on this site that strongly intimate that Jameis Winston sexually assaulted someone. It's unfair and it makes me uncomfortable. 

Follow me @jaythesportsguy