National Columnist

After state declined chance to judge Winston, time for us to follow suit

The state of Florida did its job in the Jameis Winston case. Interviewed the victim, tested DNA, talked to witnesses. The state of Florida did its job and concluded that it doesn't have enough to charge the Florida State quarterback with rape.

Now it's our turn to do our job -- and respect that decision.

Innocent until proven guilty, know what I mean? Our system isn't perfect and doesn't always get it right, but it's the system we have and even in its imperfections it's the best system in the world. The state of Florida concluded there isn't enough evidence of Jameis Winston's guilt to take the case to court.

That's not going to stop lots of folks from assuming the worst, because that's what lots of folks do: assume guilt. If you're famous and accused of something, you're guilty. And if you're famous and accused of something and not even formally charged? You're guilty ... and the prosecutor is corrupt.

That's where the argument against Jameis Winston, as if there is one anymore, will go next: He's guilty, and the state of Florida let him off because he's the best football player on the best team in the country. Jameis Winston is guilty because he was accused.

Did something happen? Definitely. Did something criminal happen? Possibly. Did Jameis Winston do something criminal? We have no idea, but the state of Florida spent a small fortune investigating the case and decided not to charge him.

In a perfect world, this allegation wouldn't follow Winston around. For this to follow him would be patently unfair.

You say there's a chance he's a rapist? I say the people who investigated this case have decided that, legally speaking, there's a much more likely chance he's not. I say the idea that Winston is guilty just because he was accused is scary, and doesn't sound like any America I want to live in.

But that is the America I live in, and you. It's the America that Ben Roethlisberger lives in, and there are people -- lots of people -- who are convinced he's a rapist because he was accused of that by two different women. I'm not getting into it here, but I've written extensively on Roethlisberger in the past.

There will be people who decide Winston is guilty, just like there are people who have decided Roethlisberger and Kobe Bryant are guilty, but there are people who make decisions like that one based on their own baggage. One example: I know a victim of rape, therefore all rape accusations are accurate. Another example: I don't like Roethlisberger or the Steelers; therefore he's guilty. Another: I'm a fan of Florida and not Florida State; therefore Winston is guilty.

The opposite holds true too, of course: I'm a fan of Florida State, therefore he's innocent. This is what we do; we bring our baggage into the situation and then, when the facts are vague, we conform what we don't know around our own preferences. And lots of people prefer to think Jameis Winston is guilty.

Be fair to Jameis Winston and don't fall into the trap that this radio idiot in Baton Rouge, La., fell into on Thursday. Don't compare the Jameis Winston case to the case of LSU running back Jeremy Hill, or to the case of anyone else, because no two cases are identical. No two cases are even close, so don't go there.

Musing on Twitter that the Jameis Winston case is similar to the Jeremy Hill case because they both play football and were accused of something horrible? Jameis Winston isn't guilty because Jeremy Hill was guilty. The Florida legal system didn't give Jameis Winston a break that allows him to keep playing because the Louisiana legal system gave Jeremy Hill breaks that allowed him to keep playing.

Be smarter than this, people. And be fair -- to Jameis Winston, to the system we have, to the state of Florida for spending time and money to pursue the accuser's story before deciding, no, there just isn't a case there. Not against Jameis Winston, anyway.

Check your baggage at the door, is what I'm saying. Check your bags and use your brains.

CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre

Latest Video

Latest

Most Popular