Mike Merrell’s Three-and-Out
Throughout history, entire populations have been duped into following charismatic leaders with no scruples whatsoever. The unwitting populace draws power from the promise of the spoils of war, and celebrates the exclamation that they are the chosen, that they are the master race, that they are better than everybody else.
Under these leaders, hubris and disregard for others doesn’t just happen. It comes from the top and is encouraged, which only adds fuel to the fire of entitlement and invincibility. But eventually, those who have been disregarded — and others who demand justice — rise up, and the false glory doesn’t just end. It comes crashing down in humbling, total defeat, and the leaders are remembered not for their achievements, but for their utter disregard of all that is right and good. The subject of this week’s Three-and-Out is the Florida State Seminoles.
1. Florida State is not the only university that has off-the-field issue. All major universities struggle with athletes’ behavior from time to time. The University of Oregon has admittedly had its share. Athletes have been arrested for or accused of stealing, drunk driving, possession of marijuana, sexual assault, at least one scuffle with a girlfriend, illegal entry while under the influence of alcohol, and cold-cocking an opposing player after a tough loss — and probably a few more that don’t come to mind at the moment.
The point is, though, that in every case, credit goes to UO Athletic Director Rob Mullens and the coaches, who, along with the fans and media, demanded high standards of behavior from their athletes. High profile athletes have been suspended from bowl games for as little as emptying a trash can of snow on a gentleman’s head and mere suspicion of drunk driving. Conviction for drunk driving has resulted in as much as suspension for an entire year. And the Ducks make no compromises in dealing with high profile players. Starters — including quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, cornerback Cliff Harris and tight end Colt Lyerla — along with a number of others, have been booted completely off the team.
Oregon is not alone in expecting high standards of behavior. Across the nation, people are waking up to the realization that the days of “boys will be boys” are over, and that athletes must meet higher off-the-field standards than merely not being charged or convicted of a felony. Among the exceptions …
2. The Florida State Seminoles. Under the leadership of Jimbo Fisher and poster child Jameis Winston, Florida State remains committed to lowering the bar for athletes’ behavior to the basement of the outhouse. For a fairly comprehensive rundown on the severity of the problem, check out this piece by FishDuck.com’s own Michael Bigham, a retired law enforcement officer.
Despite having the errors of their ways pointed out fairly routinely by ESPN and even such credible sources as the New York Times, the Seminoles football program insists on casting itself as the victim and vilifying anybody and everybody who point out the obvious: While arguably one of the finest college football teams ever on the field, when it comes to standards of behavior off the field, FSU is one sick puppy.
Citing “innocent until proven guilty” and “he said/she said” in the case of Winston’s alleged sexual assault of a co-ed, Coach Fisher asserts that there was no victim because there was no crime. Obviously, whether there actually was a crime or not is debatable. Maybe there wasn’t. Of course, with Winston’s track record in the fine-upstanding-honest-citizen department, anything he says is facing fourth and twenty-five to start with… Make that fourth and forty — against the Seahawks. But let’s put that aside.
The point that is overlooked is that if Fisher truly believes that there can be no victim if there is no crime, then he is a victim of his own ignorance, which while not against the law, is nonetheless despicable for a man in his position.
If the woman involved in the alleged assault did not consent, Winston and his thugs participated in sexual assault, plain and simple, even if they got away with it. But let’s grant for a moment that consent was given and it wasn’t a crime. What we’re left with is a documented case of a man having sex with a woman in front of two of his buddies, with one of them filming it. Let’s even go so far as to assume that the young woman agreed to the filming — which I sincerely doubt. Any way you cut it, Winston — and his buddies — participated in a sordid act that degraded all concerned. If she did consent, then he took advantage of a young woman who obviously needed psychological help while his friends looked on. No matter which direction you go, all roads lead to sleazy.
This may be hard for Florida State fans to understand, but rape or not, these young men degraded a young woman. They degraded themselves. They degraded their families. They degraded their team. They degraded their University. They degraded their sport. They degraded what it means to be a student athlete. They even provided the platform for the members of the Seminoles marching band to degrade themselves. And every person and organization that was degraded was a victim of their thoughtless actions, even those too glory-blind to see it. And still, the FSU fans cheer them.
3. In Comparison. Unfortunately, the University of Oregon had an incident somewhat similar to Winston’s rape issue that involved three Oregon basketball players earlier this year. Undeniably, there was sex involved, and as in the Winston case, the prosecuting attorney concluded that evidence relating to lack of consent was not strong enough to prosecute. (It should be noted, though, that the Eugene Police Department, unlike Tallahassee, pursued a vigorous, timely investigation — and that a Title IX investigation was also quickly initiated — unlike Florida State. Also note that FSU is currently under investigation for Title IX violations relating to sexual assault and that Oregon is not.)
Even though losing the athletes involved was a major setback for the Oregon men’s basketball team, even though no charges were ever filed, everybody considered the situation a disgrace and knew that these athletes were gone. Not suspended for a game. Not suspended for a season. Not just booted off the team. They were not even just expelled from the University. They were expelled and ordered to never set foot on the Oregon campus for a minimum of four years, and for as many as the next ten years.
Why, if they weren’t even charged with a crime? It’s simple. There is a huge gap between “acceptable behavior for a student athlete” and “not convicted of a felony.”
So, to any Florida State fans reading: Try to justify it all you will. Sing the praises of Jameis Winston. Shout, “Guilty until proven innocent.” Strike up the band and have them sing, “She’s a hoe.” Proclaim that everybody’s just picking on you. Tell us we’re just bitter because we’re not as good as you. Call it homerism. Tell us we’re just being self-righteous. Call it envy. Call it fear of Seminole Nation. Call it ESPN SEC bias. Call it anything you want to. Just know that while we have total respect for what the Seminoles have accomplished on the field, we — along with ESPN, the New York Times and many, many others whom you have not heard from — have one word for what the Seminoles have done off the field, how the University has dealt with it, and how the fans have accepted it. That word is “disgust.”
Top photo from video