Is Football More Important Than Rape?

by Charles J. Orlando for YourTango  |  photo via flickr

It’s time to actually #blamejameis and those who enable him.

Mr. Winston:

I’ve been following your college football career at Florida State University as quarterback for the Seminoles. You have an incredible arm, and your insight into a defense’s secondary is enviable. You’re a Heisman Trophy winner—the youngest ever, actually—and have been expected to be the top pick in the 2015 NFL draft. You should be proud, as your accomplishments on the field have been amazing. And just think: All you had to do to achieve your goals was work hard, practice every day, stay focused on your prize and … sell your honor and humanity.

Just in case you’ve been hiding behind the FSU Athletic Department’s deafening silence—or your lawyer’s rhetoric—you were accused of sexual assault in December 2012. Your accuser was a student at FSU and, according to witness accounts, she allegedly met you at Potbelly’s—the campus bar—and headed back to your place with your roommate Chris Casher and friend Ronald Darby, both FSU football players, too. And then … well … things get murky there, don’t they? (Although Walt Bogdanich at The New York Times did an outstanding job earlier this year outing the colossal legal joke-of-an-investigation.)

It would be easy to take cheap shots at you for your alleged* actions … your sick, pathetic, cowardly alleged* actions that are devoid of any form of humanity or masculinity, and which may have stolen the smile and the future from a female FSU freshman. But as I consider the entirety of what has transpired, I can’t (and won’t) blame you solely for what allegedly* took place. Not because you aren’t a predator—which I’m of the opinion you are––even though you have not been convicted (or even charged, for that matter). Not because you need help—which, if the accusations are correct, you most assuredly do (and I mean real mental help, not the legal shield you hide behind nor the buried ostrich heads of the FSU Athletic Department). And not because you deserve forgiveness—which you don’t, as you are responsible for your actions. It is because you were assisted in your efforts.

You see, Mr. Winston, you might be an alleged* rapist, but the cowards in your immediate circle may actually be worse than you. These enablers, in my opinion—the police, the FSU Athletic Department, and your friends— bore witness (even admitting that they recorded the alleged* assault as it happened), and received damning information (perhaps even proof) of the acts that shattered the pride, mental integrity and physical security of a young woman. These people in your circle went home night after night for months with a clear conscience, apparently placated by the notion that they were keeping what mattered most (in their eyes) safe—the athletic department, the economic viability of the surrounding businesses that count on revenue from FSU students, and their own personal interests. You were surrounded by people who may have known what you were doing … and due to them suckling at the power teat, worried for their jobs, in complete denial, or (at the worst) completely indifferent about your activities, they not only accepted what you allegedly* did, they seemed to lower their heads in cowardice,  offering their silent, willing approval. It looks like they embraced silence and feigned innocence so they didn’t upset the proverbial apple cart. They ensured their own well-being on the back of a woman potentially violated … and they did it without missing a night’s sleep, and without considering that they were sacrificing their very humanity.

The scariest thing to me, Mr. Winston, is that you are hardly alone in your actions. Not that you care, but according to the United States Department of Justice (in “The Sexual Victimization of College Women”) nearly 1 in 20 U.S. college women will be the victim of a completed or attempted rape. As such, it would seem that you are the tip of the iceberg in a subject that colleges and college towns would rather ignore, thus ensuring enrollment and revenue. No matter how many young women are violated and forced to look in the mirror knowing that someone entered and stayed inside their bodies without permission, the truth will seemingly be buried under an ever-growing pile of sports politics, pretension, alumni support, and denial.

The most fascinating thing is what I think you must believe about yourself. You probably think you have power. You’re under the assumption that because you can steal soda, shoplift seafooddestroy property, or scream misogynistic obscenities without the slightest consequence, that you are an important figure. Let me explain the truth: You’ve been afforded that power because of your talent. You don’t actually have power; the people who are making money off your talent have the power. They allow your transgressions to keep you on the field winning games. They don’t care about you; they care about your next win … and their next title. Perhaps you’ve already figured that out. Maybe you discovered how weak you actually are as a man and attempted to validate yourself by violating an innocent woman. Most studies say the same thing: Rapists don’t commit the act for sex … they rape for power, using sex as a weapon to inflict pain, violence and humiliation. In essence, you probably weren’t even into her … you may have been trying to validate yourself as a man.

Many of your fans and defenders have taken a hardline stance declaring your innocence, ignoring the fact that nearly 12 months passed since the allegation of rape initially came to light—and the evidence of video and witness memories were fading. In the absence of evidence, your supporters’ defense is simple: She didn’t say no and there’s no proof. According to your accuser, she did tell you to stop (as she stated in the official police report). But even if she didn’t, please allow me to educate you on something basic: Not saying “no” doesn’t mean an implied “yes”. This implied yes is indicative of a sickness in people who are accused of these kinds of acts; in our very culture, in fact. In some situations, begging for forgiveness later instead of asking for permission first denotes initiative and foresight. However, when it comes to sex, that’s never the case. If the allegations are true, you were an smug, egotist who felt that the world around you was yours—including a freshman’s body—and it seems you were given that permission by those around you … like-minded cowards who lie-in-wait and who look away from injustice so they can protect their own interests—a pure reflection of the selfie mentality that seems to run so rampant in today’s world.

I need you to know something: You and your allies haven’t just potentially ruined the life of your alleged* victim; you have lowered the bar on what the term “man” means. In your position, people will look to you for guidance and leadership. You are trusted. With these allegations, you and your silent cohorts seemingly betrayed everything that is good and decent about being a man. I am sickened and repulsed that I have to be put into the same gender category as you. However, as I am not now, nor will I ever be, like you—not even in the remotest sense of comparison and with the most metaphorical hyperbole—I will continue to take the high road and leave the insults and sarcastic, cutting blasts to the trolls of the Internet, as they now have unlimited fodder for discussion when it comes to the likes of you.

Mr. Winston, I consider you a Harbinger of Awareness for humanity. You have been a test of humanity’s willingness to release selfish wants on the backs of others and err on the side of decency … of what is universally right … of justice. This is a test that was failed by so many in your situation, but I’m hopeful those observing will see this for what it is: A wake up call that someone else may NOT take care of what is right … of what is just. It is up to those who know to do something.

There are great people in universities and in college sports departments, but your situation and the way it has been handled has people questioning everything at this point. Colleges and sports departments that enable and ignore crimes against others—with help from the outside world—are destined to become finishing schools for the male sociopath-in-training … the abuser … the man-without-scruples … the rapist. With men like this waiting for our daughters, I not only weep for women, but also for the perception women have of men in positions of leadership and power.

I would offer, Mr. Winston, that you are (perhaps unintentionally) leading the charge to show women of the world that they, their sexuality—and by extension their personal power—are negotiable and expendable. That poor treatment is what they should expect when money and influence are at stake. That men in power will do anything to keep it, and that women are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. You show it through your alleged* actions, complete disregard for common decency, lack of self-awareness, and absence of basic humanity and humility. But I see past the falsehoods. I see past your clownish persona. I see beyond what seems to be an orchestrated legal defense.

I see you for what you are. I see you as you should be seen: as nothing.

In condemnation,
Charles J. Orlando

*I’m going to ensure that alleged follows my words. Wouldn’t want you (or anyone) to think that you actually faced a court of law where justice might prevail.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.com: An Open Letter to Jameis Winston 



  1. I’m in no way suggesting that we can formally punish Jameis Winston. But I don’t have to do anything to support him or Florida State if I believe that there was a cover up. Social pressure can be a powerful force in adjusting peoples behavior. Anyone who jumps up on a table in a public place and yells “I’m going to f*** her in the pussy” or thinks he can get away with robbery could use some guidance on socially acceptable behavior.

    Also, he is likely going to be punished in other ways regardless of what we do. Multiple NFL scouts have said that they can’t suggest to draft him high because there are too many personality issues that could make the team look bad. He is likely going to lose millions of dollars here by falling in the draft. He’ll still get drafted and make a lot of money but it will be significantly less.

    I don’t give a s*** about his race. I don’t give a s*** about his football talent. I only care that he has shown that he does think the rules of society apply to him. That is why I dislike him.

    Note: I’m personally refusing to watch any Florida State games or spend any money that could benefit them. Even if I ignore the rape allegations, I think it is sad that an institution with a history and reputation like Florida State’s would allow someone like him to represent their school (because we all know that football is just advertising for the school). I also plan to boycott any NFL team that drafts him. It is all I can do as an individual.
    I also would not hire a man who shouts profanity in public or commits robbery for a business I run and none of that makes it unjust or unfair. I’m judging him by his actions and that is all anyone can ask for.

  2. @Dave

    Show me where I said Winston was innocent. I am against the presumption of guilt and the questionable motivations behind such a presumption. There is a huge difference.

    I get it, people HATE Jameis Winston. But why?

    Because he is a scary black man that had sex with a white women.

    Because he is a black man that has had tremendous success and fame in a short period of time with the potential for enormous monetary gains in the near future. He just does not deserve it.

    Because he is a black man that does not speak “white enough”. Too stupid to deserve it.

    People are still racist in this country. And writers such as Charles J. Orlando are exploiting people’s hatred and bigotry (as well as showing their own) to get a particular message out there. Orlando’s message here is Strict Criminal Liability and an immediate presumption of guilt for any allegation of sexual assault.

    ESPN, USA Today, NYT and other papers are motivated by advertising and know a huge population will click the link as long a “Jameis Winston” is in the headline, then go straight to the comments section to spew their vitriol and bigotry. It is the modern day version of public lynching.

    People are using his other actions as evidence that he committed a much more serious crime. But they have absolutely no bearing on what occurred that night. If yelling an obscenity = rape, my god we are doomed. If stealing $30 worth of groceries = rape, there are a shit load of rapists in this country. We can judge his other actions and acknowledge his immaturity and egomania without using it to assume guilt for a serious crime. Whether I want my daughter to date a bonehead has NOTHING to do with his guilt and whether he should sit in jail for decades.

    Are you, Dave, suggesting we take away his liberty and freedom because as a good parent you don’t want your daughter dating a bonehead?

    It is easy to claim cover-ups and misconduct when things do not go your way. It is Lawyering 101. I look forward to the civil trials. My guess is it will never get to that point, and it is all about money now. Sue three entities with vastly deep pockets with the guise of social justice and the public at large hating those deep pockets. Equals settlement, therefore another future millionaire.

  3. Another thing – feminists lose their minds when anyone suggests that any rape allegation is false. When MRA types put quotations around the word rape to indicate skepticism, that’s the most offensive thing ever. But if it’s appropriate to call the allegations against Winston “allegations*”, then it’s also appropriate to call this unproven event a “rape*”.

    … my point being, of course, that neither of those things is appropriate. Here’s where I agree with Robert and Dave at the same time. Robert’s right that everyone should just stay out of this and let the law run its course. Dave is right that the law needs to actually step up and do just that. Which they might have if the accuser had aggressively pursued the issue.

  4. Such a tough subject. I don’t know enough about it to form an opinion on his guilt or innocence, but I lean toward Robert’s perspective. Although I agree with Dave that cover-ups happen and institutions do shitty things.

    Many men doubt stories like this because we just can’t get past the idea that if a woman was raped, she has a responsibility to prosecute her attacker. This is what happens when she doesn’t. Am I blaming the victim? No idea! We’ll never know whether she was really a victim. Because she didn’t follow through. Now all anybody can do is speculate and pick sides and scream at each other and slander both parties without having any idea whether they’re right.

    I get that it’s painful and humiliating, but if you’re attacked and you don’t prosecute your attacker, despite knowing exactly who he is, then you just let a dangerous predator remain at large. You also undermine your own credibility MASSIVELY. That’s how people see it.

  5. Just because Jameis Winston hasn’t been convicted of a crime doesn’t mean he is innocent! Innocent until proven guilty just means that we can’t formally punish him. Being innocent before the law is not the same thing as innocent!

    Let me ask you a question. What would you say to your daughter if she wanted to date Jameis Winston? I know I’d do everything in my power to convince my daughter it was a bad idea and every good parent I know would do the same. His actions make it obvious that he in immature and on a huge power trip. We are just judging him by his actions.

    As more evidence comes to light it is appearing more likely that there was a cover up and I will judge people and educational institutions harshly for actions that I think support a football program at the expense of a woman being violated.

    I’m fairly sure that the charges were dropped for one of 2 reasons:
    1) the victim didn’t want her sex life in public view (and with a high profile case like this it would be)
    2) she was paid off in some way

    Either way more truly innocent women could be victimized because we didn’t even take Jameis Winston to court to determine what really happened.

    I’ll admit that the original article went a little too far with its accusations against a man that is still innocent before the law but if he really did rape that woman then the author is exactly right about the message we are sending.

    Ironically, I’m not sure the worst person in this whole incident is Jameis Winston. I think whoever convinced that woman to drop the charges is possibly even worse than Jameis Winston because they are helping to send a message that you can probably get away with Rape if you are powerful enough.

    I’ve got to stop typing about this subject before I get sick…

  6. I have been a loyal reader of Em and Lo for a long time, but will no longer be after today.

    After reading “Is Football More Important Than Rape?” it is clear you are more concerned about clicks and clickbait than writing an informative piece based on actual fact. The level of vitriol leveled against an individual that the author probably has not met in person nor interviewed is disturbing and throughly unpleasant to read.

    I have followed the case closely. I have daughters that attend FSU. I constantly worry about their safety and well being and was none too happy to hear about Winston’s alleged conduct, the police handling of the case and FSU’s response. But then I read the official documents released by the State Attorney. I still question whether the investigation by the Police was conducted properly and I think that should be explored.

    But Due Process and Innocence until proven guilty are fundamental rights WE ALL share in this country. Just as you have a free right to publish a poorly written article, Mr. Winston has a right of innocence until the allegations against him are proven in a court of law. I find it disturbing that you would publish an article with the underlying premise that Mr. Winston is guilty and that he is a sick individual when that is not how our system of criminal justice works. Allegations must be proven, allegations are not assumed to be true, allegations and statements are not bonafide fact. Should allegations be taken seriously? Resoundingly, YES. They should be investigated to the fullest extent of the law. I hope my daughters would be heard and taken seriously if something horrible ever happened to them. BUT I would also hope that if my daughters were accused of something, Mr. Charles Orlando would not write an article with the assumption of their guilt as the basic premise. I would also hope that the personal attacks of hate and vitriol would not cloud the facts as they were to be found.

    I do not think anybody in our society thinks the U.S. criminal justice system is perfect, but it is one of the best out there and admired around the world. It probably gets it right more often than it gets it wrong.

    I come to Em and Lo to read articles that are fair and interesting. I like reading about empowering women, gender equality, and sexual exploration. BUT I will not do it at the expense of my beliefs in due process, racial equality, and just being good human free of hate.

    The condescending usage of “*alleged” really bothers me. I could allege all sorts of things against Mr. Orlando and he would never face a court of Justice. He must therefore be guilty. It is just dumbfounding and illogical.

    I am probably going to be accused of victim blaming but there are allegations that were contradicted by facts. The accuser alleged she was hit in the head and that is why she could not remember anything. At the hospital only a few hours after the attack, doctors found no signs of trauma. The accuser alleged that she was drugged and that is why she could not remember everything. Blood taken that night lacked any amount, trace or otherwise, of drugs, which was then independently verified with a University of Florida researcher. She said she was too intoxicated to remember or give consent, but the level of alcohol was insignificant at the time of blood being drawn. Even with the most liberal estimates of what the blood alcohol levels were at the time of the alleged crime, it would not have been enough to impair memory.

    There are also racial undertones that have been massively underreported. The allegation that the accuser’s attorney said her client could not have given consent because she does not sleep with “black boys” has been ignored. The accuser refused to identify her boyfriend, whose semen was also found during the rape kit. He turned out to be an African America male football player (for an Ohio school not FSU) from her hometown also in Tallahassee the weekend of the assault. Without too much speculation, could she possibly have been hiding her sexual preferences from her parents? The roommate called her parents after being asked not to by the accuser, who then rushed 5 hours to be by her side. Could something as simple as a fling and a fight with a boyfriend have snowballed into this massive shit storm of racism and bigotry. Poor white girl attacked by the black man. Purely rampant speculation but it was not too long ago that African American men were lynched in Florida for just looking at a white woman.

    I did not get to interview the any of the parties nor did anybody else writing about this case, but the State Attorney did, as well as other seasoned prosecutors. If there was enough for a charge they would have charged. They had no problem charging a starting FSU football player Greg Dent with sexual assault the same year all of Winston saga was occurring.

    If you want to advocate for Strict Criminal Liability any time an accusation of sexual assault is made, then advocate. But that is not currently the standard and Winston’s guilt should not be a presumed fact. There was not enough for a criminal prosecution, but there might be enough for her civil complaint. My opinion of Winston might change then.

    As a site that I generally thought promoted equality and rights for all, I do not know how you justify the closing line “I see you for what you are. I see you as you should be seen: as nothing.”

    I see this website “as nothing” now.

    In condemnation,


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