Sikkema’s Stat of the Week
Alright, let’s just air it all out.
Barring some crazy shift in the universe where Adam Schefter would be wrong in one of his official reports, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston is going to start the 2018 season on the suspension list. This comes after an eight-month investigation by the NFL over the allegation of a female Uber driver, who claims Winston groped her while in a drive-thru late at night when Winston was in Arizona in 2016. Since we learned of the NFL investigation last November, small clues have come out (such as Winston’s former Florida State teammate Ronald Darby being with him on that trip), but for almost the entirety of the investigation there was total radio silence.
Until last week.
Last week the flood gates were opened. It started when Tallahassee radio host Jeff Cameron announced that Winston’s camp was preparing for a suspension — one that could be anywhere from one to three games in length. Cameron cited that the reason for Winston being suspended wasn’t because of a violation of the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy, but rather, a failure to report the incident, which would have been upheld using both the new policy (which was put in place at the end of 2016) and the old policy (which was put in place in 2014). Though the newest policy is more specific than the old one in terms of player responsibility to potential violations, language still existed in the old policy that would have likely allowed the NFL do as they pleased. So Cameron’s report of a potential suspension looked valid.
Not 48 hours after Cameron’s initial report hit the airwaves, Schefter announced that it was true; that Winston was being suspended, and it would be for three games instead of one. Later, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times revealed the clarification of Winston’s suspension was even worse, as it was not a failure to report, but rather, that Winston had, in fact, violated the Personal Conduct Policy. That showed that the NFL might have found evidence in their investigations that implied Winston was guilty of the allegations brought before him – mainly in the form of the new knowledge of a second Uber ride now surfacing. Soon after that, Stroud also made it known that Winston would not be appealing.
And thus the spew of Twitter tweets was unleashed, and what follows is my reaction to it all.
Let me start off by saying this: You don’t know.
You don’t know and I don’t know. Most people in the world don’t know.
We don’t know what really happened (yet, if ever), and the length that some of you went to not only completely disregard a serious allegation, but also attack the messengers of reported information as it came out just because it might put the quarterback of your favorite football team in a bad light was sickening.
If I had to read “Who are you going to believe, a girl who’s changed her story or Winston?” one more time I was going to lose it. It’s that kind of attitude that permeates the culture of this country. It’s an attitude that has domestic and sexual abuse well ingrained into the fabric of our society.
Don’t address this situation by calling it “just another Me Too” movement with sarcasm in your voice. There are bad eggs in every cause that might give it a bad name, but empowering women to speak out and bring light to terrible acts, which absolutely do happen (far too often, I’ll add), is not something to dread; it is something we deeply need as a society. Don’t be tired of women coming forward with their experiences. The truth will prevail, and for a long time it didn’t because women didn’t have the platform, support, or safety to speak up. All empowerment does is allow us to put in the work to find truth on any side, rather than live in the laziness of silence or the abhorrent acts of direct opposition.
Recently, I have seen many of you post your support for Winston. To that, I don’t have a problem, as I don’t know everything there is to know. Right now you’re sticking up for someone you look up to and root for. All I would say to that is: You are allowed to root for both your team and for justice and truth. In fact, I would highly encourage you to do both. However, one should exist above the other, and to give you a hint, sports shouldn’t always be the top priority.
The fact of the matter is: I don’t know what’s true and what’s not in this case. I wasn’t there. But I’m sure as hell not going to make light of such an allegation until it’s taken seriously and investigated fully. Even as of right now, neither you nor I know all of what the NFL investigated, so don’t act like you do.
At the end of the day, do I hope Winston is completely innocent? Absolutely I do, but it has nothing to do with football. It’s because I hope such an act never even occurred; it doesn’t matter who was involved.
But, here’s what’s happening. Winston is getting suspended if Schefter’s report is correct. He’s not getting suspended because of a violation for a failure to report. He’s getting suspended for a violation of the Conduct Policy – meaning in how he acted in the case of the investigation at hand. We also know that he’s not appealing if Stroud’s report is correct.
Again, I do not know all the facts. We know Winston came out publicly when the investigation was announced and said that the claims being made against him were completely false. So, in a situation where he’s being suspended for a violation and the allegations against him – that he was sexually inappropriate with a woman – why in the world would he not go to the ends of the Earth to defend his name? Especially knowing that this kind of awful behavior is in his narrative!
I mean, for goodness sake, he went through a rape case while at Florida State. And Winston’s going to let this go if he’s innocent? I’m not trying to claim anything as fact yet, but that’s something I just don’t get. As a man, a future husband and father, role model, and if I was about to carry around the title of a person who did something sexually inappropriate with a woman (perhaps) and I didn’t do it, why would I not being fighting that tooth and nail?
Now, Schefter also put out a reason why Winston is taking the suspension now as opposed to fighting it through an appeals process and that could be because the money he’ll lose over the three games this year is very small compared to what he might lose under his fifth-year option if the suspension drags out and ultimately kicks in next year. But, if he’s innocent, why would you not take this to court and get the facts out there in the case?
Maybe the NFL ends up winning on its power and can suspend him, but at least then we’re not all sitting here thinking Winston did it if he didn’t. Maybe it is a matter of protecting the shield, but right now all I see is a somewhat guilty verdict and no fighting back. What am I suppose to think? That some money let the man sell out his entire reputation? Because I don’t want to think that. I’ve never thought of Winston like that.
People have also come out and have been outraged at members of the media as if we have completely disregarded everything Winston has done for the Tampa Bay community. Every time I have ever interacted or been around Winston he has been a wonderful human being. But, though it’s hard for people to accept the duality of the situation, just because Winston has done good things does not automatically mean he’s not capable of doing bad things, as well. We’re not forgetting the good things he’s done.
Heck, I’ve covered many of the events myself. But that doesn’t change what’s being reported. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s being suspended by the NFL. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s taking his three-game suspension without a fight. Both can exist, and right now both do.
The last thing I’m going to say is something that I talked about on Twitter as well as on some recent podcasts. I do not say these things with certainty, but rather wonder what happens next if such is the case.
If Winston lied to the Buccaneers, either about there being a second Uber ride at all or omitting it purposefully, the trust between a franchise quarterback and his franchise is now fractured – perhaps to be sealed, but the scar will always remain. Winston is staring at a three-game suspension for the same type of thing you looked past to draft him, and if he does anything remotely related to such an act again he’ll be suspended for an entire season.
I don’t believe the Buccaneers are going to move on from Winston, at this time, but I do believe that, for the first time since they drafted him, they have to have a Plan B; they have to be prepared. In the three drafts following the 2015 draft of Winston, the Buccaneers have not drafted a single quarterback. That will change next April.
Perhaps they never act on their Plan B. I’m sure they hope they never have to if they end up keeping him. But, nonetheless, the plan has to exist. There has to be a backup plan. That’s not me trying to run Winston out of town or witch hunt him in any way beyond what’s already happening. That is not my intent at all. That is simply me addressing reality. If, and we don’t know this for sure, Winston kept the Buccaneers in the dark about what the NFL ultimately found (enough to suspend him with no appeal), there would be a rift in the trust that I’m not sure I could overcome as a general manager if I’m Jason Licht.
But, I’m not a general manager. Those decisions are not mine to make, and I’m glad they’re not. Because right now I don’t know everything that goes into this. Maybe they do.
But, even now, a Plan B has to take form. We take an in-depth look at what the Buccaneers’ plan B is for Week 1 on the next page.
All of “what’s next” is germane to a situation like this on a site like PewterReport.com. But let’s not think about that at the expense of remembering that this story is not just about a franchise quarterback of the Buccaneers. It’s about a woman who potentially has faced a sexual assault and is being castigated, by some, for her coming forward. In a society that pushes women who speak up to the margin, I’m going to do what everyone should. I’m going to trust her word to be true as all the facts are investigated.
I’m going to respect her and not blind myself to what may have transpired just because we may want to believe otherwise.
Until we have a clearer picture of what happened, that’s what I’ll do.