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When Sports Get in the Way of Journalism

December 6, 2013

Although I’ve never really discussed it on this site before, I am a huge sports fan. And, I think that even might be an understatement. The majority of the time, my television is tuned to some sort of sporting event (unless I’m watching Food Network, but that’s a different story). But, there is one major sports story that caught my eye.

The starting quarterback at Florida State University, Jameis Winston, has been caught up in a story which has made national headlines. Winston was accused of rape by a woman who claimed that he had sexually assaulted her last December after the two had met at a bar in Tallahassee.

Yesterday, after an investigation into the case, Florida state attorney Willie Meggs announced that no charges would be filed against Winston. Meggs cited conflicting and inconsistent evidence as the reason that the charges were dropped.

However, when watching and reading some of the coverage of this case, I was appalled at the way some of the journalists who cover college football were covering a serious news case.

One of the main reasons that this story was so large is because Florida State’s football team is currently ranked No. 1 in all of college football and is in the midst of an undefeated season. In addition, Winston is believed, by many, to be the front runner for the Heisman Trophy, which is awarded every year to the best player in college football. So, the influence and interest of sports were clear in the coverage of this alleged sexual assault case.

The first thing I found to be very unprofessional was the following tweet from @NBCSportsRadio which claimed that “Jameis Winston gives the Heisman stiff arm to the allegations against him of sexual assault. He will not be charged.” Since posting this tweet, NBC Sports Radio has since removed it and apologized for the tasteless nature of the tweet.

At the press conference held on Thursday afternoon from the Leon County Courthouse in Tallahassee, there was also a great amount of laughter amongst Meggs and former Florida state senator Al Lawson, who was standing behind Meggs during the questions from reporters.  They were clearly making light of a very serious situation. Below is a video of all of the uncomfortable and inappropriate laughter that took place.

I also can’t believe that, in the above video, reporters asked the state attorney about Winston’s Heisman Trophy candidacy when this case was about so much more than football.

But, the one thing I had a tough time dealing with was at the interview with Winston’s attorney, Tim Jansen. This was a question asked by a reporter:

Throughout the investigation, there was no notion whatsoever that the woman who was accusing Winston was affiliated with any outside university. In fact, as confirmed by this report, the woman was a student a Florida State who withdrew from the university after the incident. However, because it was a college football-themed topic, there was a mention of the University of Alabama.

The press conference with Jansen was just a complete circus. There were people honking their car horns behind the media, reporters were shouting over top of each other to get their next question in, and there was a group of six males in the background who were shirtless and had “JAMEIS” painted across their chests, while doing the Florida State Seminoles “chop.”

While there are often major stories associated with sports, it still takes trained and professional journalists to cover those stories. In this case, it was a clear case where college sports got in the way of true journalism.





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One Comment
  1. This is one of your best pieces of analysis. Thorough breakdown of the case you’ve chosen.

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