The rape accusation made against Jameis Winston in December of 2012 hasn’t done much to harm his football career: After that accusation was made, he won a Heisman Trophy, quarterbacked Florida State to a national championship, became the first overall pick in the draft, and got to the Pro Bowl as a rookie with the Buccaneers.
But while Winston was not criminally charged, the rape case isn’t behind him: He’s still facing a civil lawsuit from Erica Kinsman, who accused him of rape when both were Florida State students. And when Winston was asked about the sexual assault accusation and the spotlight on him off the field in an interview with TheMMQB.com, his answer suggested that the accusation was a result of being famous, and being a target.
“In college, I was up under this microscope everywhere I went,” Winston said. “I couldn’t go to class without somebody stalking me or asking me for something, an autograph or a picture. In the NFL, not only am I the face of a community, but people know my face. People are looking up to me basically as a springboard for the Tampa Bay community. Every time I go out and I have chance to make a difference or make someone smile, I try to do that to the best of my abilities. In college, I could try to do that, and no matter what, it would mean something, but everyone just wanted something from me. Give me that, Jameis, gimme, gimme, gimme. In the NFL, I can be myself, and everyone doesn’t have their hand out.”
Winston seems to be suggesting that he was accused of rape because he’s famous, and under a microscope as a famous athlete. Maybe even that Kinsman recognized him as a target because he would one day make a lot of money playing football. But there’s a major problem with that suggestion: It’s demonstrably untrue.
When Kinsman first called the police and reported that she was raped, she didn’t even know who Winston was. At that point, Winston was a freshman who was redshirting and had never appeared in a game at Florida State. Kinsman told police that she was raped, but she wasn’t able to identify the rapist until a month later, when she was put into a class with Winston during the next semester and learned his name when an instructor called roll. She then immediately contacted the police and told them Winston’s name. DNA evidence later confirmed that Winston did, in fact, have some type of sexual contact with Kinsman.
Regardless of whether you believe Winston’s side of the story — that the sex was consensual — or Kinsman’s side of the story — that it was rape — it’s simply untrue that he was a famous athlete under a microscope when he was accused of rape. He wasn’t. He was a bench warmer whose accuser had never heard of him, and who hadn’t done anything on the field to suggest that he would one day be a multimillionaire superstar.
With a civil suit pending, Winston’s lawyer would probably urge him not to say anything at all about the case. Winston certainly shouldn’t claim he was targeted as a famous athlete. He wasn’t.