Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston walked out of a Tallahassee, Fla., Publix grocery store Tuesday with about $32 worth of crabs and crawfish he planned on eating for dinner. He didn't pay for them.
Winston said he forgot to go to the check out lanes. The Leon County Sheriff interviewed him and decided to give him a civil citation, which means he isn't being charged with a crime as long as he completes 20 hours of community service and pays back the money. Florida State suspended him from the baseball team until that's completed. No football-related punishment was announced.
The entire story required multiple written statements from various parties and an actual press conference.
Crabgate. GrabaCrab. Crab and Punishment. "FSU stands for Free Seafood University." A million jokes were launched on the internet.
On and on it went. The entire thing was pretty funny. We're talking about crab legs.
"I went to the supermarket with the intent to purchase dinner but made a terrible mistake for which I'm taking full responsibility," a statement attributed to Winston read.
Seriously, that's how the statement was actually worded.
"In a moment of youthful ignorance," it continued, "I walked out of the store without paying for one of my items."
Youthful ignorance? Who wrote this thing? No one really cared about an explanation or an excuse but when you offer up "youthful ignorance", it's got to be asked: because he is youthful (20 years old), he was ignorant that grocery stores require payment for, um, groceries? Don't most five-year-olds know this?
Whatever. Winston will pay his debt to society (and Publix) and go on to eat crab and throw footballs again. This isn't a big deal, it's almost impossible not to laugh at and if the name Jameis Winston wasn't attached, it's likely almost no one would've heard about it.
It was Jameis Winston though and because of that it became national news, in part because he won the Heisman and led the Seminoles to the national title last season. In part because he dodged far, far more serious and sinister charges in December of a year-old sexual assault accusation. And in part because, well, this stuff just keeps happening to the guy.
No one wants to make much over a $32.72 act of "youthful ignorance" but at some point, like now, it would behoove Winston and his professional future if he stopped finding himself in the middle of things, big and small.
Since arriving at FSU in 2012, there was an incident where police spoke to him about windows being shot out with BB guns and another where a local Burger King accused him of stealing soda – he kept refilling his cup even though employees told him to stop.
Then there was the sexual assault case which resulted in no prosecution, but saw the local state's attorney blast the police for botching the investigation. The New York Times last month reported that another FSU student sought counseling, but did not pursue charges, after a sexual encounter with Winston.
Individually each is explainable, Winston either dodging serious allegations or being involved in immature behavior (who hasn't "stolen" some extra soda from Burger King?). He's never been charged with a crime and that's worth remembering.
In totality, though, it says Winston needs to grow up because he's eligible for the NFL draft next spring and despite his success last season, he lacks the kind of pro-style throwing motion or velocity to assure anything about his future. He isn't good enough that this stuff doesn't matter.
The NFL isn't going to run from an athlete based on this laundry list of "incidents" – it'll pretty much take anyone who can play – but teams will examine each one thoroughly. And then they'll repeatedly question Winston about his maturity and decision-making process. He has way too much ability and potential to allow that to overshadow him.
A citation for crab legs is pretty comical, unless you're the guy getting the citation, who not long ago you had the state's attorney spend weeks determining whether to charge you with a crime that carried a 15-year prison term. He should've learned then that it's best to walk a very straight line.
Winston, for his part, says he understands that. Or at least his statement says that.
After all, police said when they questioned Winston about the food three hours after he walked out of the store, he admitted to them he didn't pay and that he realized it when he got home. The problem is he just ate the dinner and didn't make any effort, police noted, to call the store or return and pay for the items.
"I realize that I am in the public spotlight and my conduct needs to be above reproach," Winston's statement read. "… I must realize that my mistakes are magnified and can bring great embarrassment to all those who support me every day.
"I make no excuses for my actions and will learn and grow from this unfortunate situation," it continued. "I hope and pray my friends and family will view me as the 20-year-old young man that I am, and support me through this unfortunate situation."
No one is bailing on him. No one is condemning him. No one is giving up on him. Not a year ago though, Winston was telling the media he would never become an off-field distraction like Johnny Manziel.
"If I get 'Manziel disease,' I want every one of you all to get your mikes and start slapping me on the head," Winston said.
The thing about Manziel is, he eventually buckled down and just played. And while he got in a fight once and once complained about a parking ticket and once got suspended for autographing some pictures, he never faced any actually serious charges.
"Sometimes when all eyes are on you, you can't do certain things," Winston said back then, discussing Johnny Football.
Sure, like forget about the check out lane.
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