Why Jameis Winston’s crab leg incident is no laughing matter

OPINION - Reports surfaced Wednesday morning that dual-sport athlete Jameis Winston was issued a citation for allegedly shoplifting crab legs from a Florida grocery store...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Reports surfaced Wednesday morning that dual-sport athlete Jameis Winston was issued a citation for allegedly shoplifting crab legs from a Florida grocery store.

Winston won the Heisman after a standout freshman campaign as quarterback for the Florida State Seminoles. He led them to the school’s first National Championship since 1999. Winston is also a pitcher on the school’s baseball team.

He wasn’t arrested for the crab leg incident, and his citation won’t appear on any criminal record — but that doesn’t matter. Public backlash is often more hurtful, and the memes mocking Winston have already begun.

It’s just not a good look.

Winston reportedly claims he “forgot” to pay for the $32.72 worth of food he left the store with. But that doesn’t matter. He’s already been suspended indefinitely from the baseball team and has to perform community service.

Earlier this month, NCAA officials announced that the Legislative Council had approved a new model which would allow Division 1 athletes access to “unlimited meals and snacks.” The announcement came shortly after UConn point guard Shabazz Napier revealed he went to bed “starving some nights.”

Any approved changes wouldn’t take effect until August 1. Could an unlimited meal plan have prevented this? Maybe.

But Winston just has to know better. As a black man in my mid-twenties, I can say that I haven’t always made the right decisions. I’ve had incidents with the law, and, while I’m not proud of those moments, I’ve learned from those lapses of judgment.

TheGrio | Jameis Winston issued a citation for shoplifting crab legs

It could be a moment such as Plaxico Burress shooting himself in a nightclub or Aldon Smith claiming he had a bomb in Los Angeles International Airport — I read headlines of these moments and often ask, “Why? Why do something so ‘stupid’ by putting yourself in a situation like this?”

In the case of Winston, one could make a case that youth is the reason for lacking common sense. The memes of Winston wearing full football gear holding crab legs may make us laugh, but this isn’t something we should be making light of.

Earlier this year, Winston was cleared of any potential criminal charges related to an alleged sexual assault of a fellow Florida State student. So what gives?

I understand that people are human and sometimes we make mistakes. We were all 20 years old once. But Winston has to realize that everything he does is under the national microscope. He is the starting quarterback and pitcher of one of the most prominent programs in college athletics.

So while we all make mistakes, Winston doesn’t really have the luxury of making mistakes like this.

Shake it off, Famous Jameis. Please know you have a lot of people rooting for you. And you don’t want to throw this all away because of some crabs in a barrel.

*Update* (4:05 pm, ET)

Jameis Winston’s attorney has released the following statement on his client’s behalf:

“As reported in the news, last night I received an adult citation for petit theft from a local supermarket. I went to the supermarket with the intent to purchase dinner but made a terrible mistake for which I’m taking full responsibility. In a moment of youthful ignorance, I walked out of the store without paying for one of my items.

I realize that I am in the public spotlight and my conduct needs to be above reproach. Over the last year I’ve learned that my accomplishments on the fields can be a wonderful thing for my school, teammates, friends and family. At the same time, I must realize that my mistakes are magnified and can bring great embarrassment to all of those who support me everyday. I make no excuses for my actions and will learn and grow from this unfortunate situation. 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.

I am grateful to be able to participate in the adult citation program where I will complete community service.”

-Jameis Winston

Cory Townes is a Digital Content Producer born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, currently resides in Brooklyn, NY, and has had his work has been featured in The Grio, TheStashed.com, Vibe.com, RapDose.com, and other media publications. For more of his work, visit www.CoryTownes.com and follow him on Twitter @CoryTownes.