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Were Jameis Winston a fourth-string punter rather than a first-string quarterback, he almost certainly would have long since been kicked off the Florida State football team, probably for good.
Instead, the Heisman Trophy-winning problem child is being protected by his university and athletics department for the worst reason possible. He is being coddled because of what he can do for them. He brought the school the Heisman and a national title last year, and who knows what goodies he can tack on this coming season. The school's leaders are unabashedly using him, hoping he stays one step ahead of the law long enough to win them more games this coming season.
Sounds harsh? You bet it does. But we all know it's true. How else do we explain a university almost completely abdicating its duties under the law involving the handling of a sexual assault case, much less the care and education of a young man who just turned 20 in January?
If we've learned anything the past six months in the ugly Winston saga, it's that nothing -- not an allegation of sexual assault, not failing to appear when you're expected to testify, not stealing crab legs from the local Publix -- will stand between the so-called leaders of Florida State and their unending love of their winning football program.
And that goes for you, too, Tallahassee Police Department, letting a sexual assault case sit dormant for nine months, just long enough for Winston to be well on his way to completing that magical Seminoles football season.
As this sad story continues to play out in Tallahassee, with no end in sight, it's obvious the people in charge of FSU don't possess the courage to do what they should do with Winston. They should remove him from the football and baseball teams at least until he answers questions about what happened the night of the alleged sexual assault, as two of his football teammates did at a code of conduct hearing Tuesday. They should tell him he needs to take time away from both sports to begin to deal with his mushrooming off-the-field problems.
He still could face code-of-conduct violations. His school is under federal review for completely mishandling the rape allegation. And there is the potential of civil action against him and FSU.
The kid has barely left his teenage years and already has not one but two attorneys. I don't care how many awards he has won. This is not the way you want to start out life as an adult.
It's well past time for FSU's leaders to provide an example for Winston by actually playing the role they are supposed to play -- that of adults supervising young people -- and showing him he is worth more to FSU as a person than just as an athlete. They should stop letting him slide. They should tell him the only course of action is to show up and tell the truth, come what may.
But now he's all lawyered up, so that's not going to happen. He's all but untouchable now.
When Winston stole the crab legs, FSU did the right thing, at least for a little while. He was suspended from the baseball team, where he is a relief pitcher -- for all of four days. He was back in plenty of time to finish up the regular season and play this week in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. I'm sure that comes as a shock to absolutely no one. It's the FSU way.
This sad story of the enablement, entitlement and abandonment of Winston has its authors: former FSU president Eric Barron, now at Penn State; interim President Garnett Stokes; athletics director Stan Wilcox; and football coach Jimbo Fisher.
Those are the people who have done what they wanted for themselves and their football program, while doing almost nothing for an immature young athlete who so desperately needed the ethical guidance and moral leadership they never supplied.