Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston learned Thursday that State Attorney Willie Meggs would not pursue any charges against him after being linked to an alleged sexual assault.
Winston, hopefully, should have also learned that there are no winners when it comes to cases like these.
He released a statement through his attorney Tim Jansen following Meggs’ announcement stating that he was “relieved” he could move on at Florida State and focus on life as a college student and athlete.
First and foremost, a sexual assault allegation should never be taken lightly.
Meggs told reporters Thursday afternoon that, after reviewing the facts, he did not believe there was enough evidence in this case to obtain a conviction.
The accuser’s family put out their own statement following Meggs’ announcement, expressing concern that the case’s high level of publicity and the excess of information leaking over social media would “discourage other victims of rape from coming forward and reporting.”
The accuser, a Florida State student, has reportedly left school.
The sports world will now focus back on Winston’s efforts to help his team land in the BCS National Championship Game and his pursuit of a Heisman trophy.
This case is not something, however, that Winston can neatly tuck behind him. He will remain in the public eye and the possibility of a suit against him in a civil case or a suit filed on his behalf for defamation is not completely off the table.
His slam dunk resumé to win the Heisman is already being questioned, though likely only the Duke Blue Devils football team can keep the Heisman trophy from Winston’s hands.
For better or worse, in sports, winning usually cures everything. Winston has the opportunity to win in three big ways in the football sense: beat Duke in the ACC Championship Saturday, win the Heisman trophy and then win a National Championship.
That would close his freshman year in spectacular fashion.
But to win off the field, in the court of public opinion and perception, Winston must continue to lead his teammates and school in the same way he did before the allegations made everyone reconsider his authenticity.
Before the season kicked off, Winston quipped: “If I ever get [Johnny] Manziel disease, I want all of you [reporters] to smack me in the head with your microphones.” It’s the kind of quote Winston has become known for, especially in Tallahassee – he doesn’t walk ar0und with a big head or a me-first attitude.
It could be easy now for him to abandon what made him successful this season in favor of a new approach that focuses solely on ‘clearing his name,’ and ‘quieting the critics.’
For Winston, however, maintaining his trademark humility off the field will serve him well. Comcast Sports’ Knox Bardeen called it “humble swag” back in October.
Winston has plenty of it. And now he needs it more than ever.
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