Allegations shouldn’t define Winston’s Heisman standing

Let’s be clear: We don’t know enough right about the accusations

surrounding Jameis Winston to make a decision, one way or the

other.

Wednesday, TMZ

reported that the Florida State quarterback and

Heisman Trophy frontrunner is being investigated for sexual battery,

nearly year-old allegations that his attorney denies. No charges have

been filed, and there is no change in Winston’s status with the

Seminoles.

I’m reminded of a line early in ‘Jerry

Maguire,’ where he’s standing outside a police department with his

client, who is being grilled by reporters.

“Listen,”

Tom Cruise’s character breaks in, “there’s no proof of anything except

that this guy is a sensational athlete.”

Really,

that’s the only thing we can say with any certainty right

now.

The Tallahassee Police Department report was

heavily redacted and it describes a suspect that doesn’t match the QBs

stature — it lists him between 5-foot-9 and 5-11 and 240 pounds and

Winston stands 6-4, 218 — and according to Winston’s attorney, Tim

Jansen, he’s never been questioned by the police in connection with the

incident.

“The matter was resolved and closed since

February,” Jansen told

the ‘Orlando Sentinel.’ “We don’t know why it is

out now. … In February, I talked with police and they informed me the

case was closed. Nothing has transpired since February and we were kind

of surprised it was re-opened.”

Of course, in the

court of public opinion, Winston is going to have this hanging over him,

no matter how this situation plays out. He’s another athlete in another

scandal.

In the

latest Heisman Forecast, I went into what stands as

the central focus of the race heading into Week 12 of this season: The

debate between Winston and defending winner, Texas A&M’s Johnny

Manziel. By virtue of his play and where he’s carried the Seminoles,

he’s on his way to becoming the second redshirt freshman to win the

award.

Frankly, Wednesday’s news did nothing to

change that.

Policing morality is not part of my

obligations as a Heisman voter. I threw my support behind Cam Newton in

2010 despite the pay-for-play talk and last year Manziel, who was

arrested in a bar fight before his record-breaking campaign, topped my

ballot. For what it’s worth, we’ve already seen a felon win in Johnny

Rodgers (1972), a conviction for his role in a gas station hold-up he’s

seeking to have pardoned.

None

of this is meant to belittle the circumstances that led to a police

report being filed after an incident on Dec. 7, 2012, in which a woman

alleged sexual assault was committed through the use of “physical force”

with a motive of “sexual gratification.” None of it is meant to

trivialize this disgusting, deplorable behavior and scale it down to the

impact it has on a 25-pound chunk of bronze.

This

case has a real victim and that we’re not hearing about it until 11

months later raises even more questions about whether his information

was being suppressed and why justice has yet to be delivered for the

woman at the center of this case.

But Winston, like

anyone facing allegations like these, deserves the benefit of the doubt.

If the investigation progresses to the point where he’s charged and

then found guilty, then we’ll have our answers. Until then, it’s our

duty as human beings to judge Winston on the only thing we can right

now: His play.

That takes us back to the

Heisman.

There will be voters that back away from

Winston, because until there is a resolution this story is only going to

become bigger and bigger as the Dec. 14 ceremony nears. No matter what

he does from here on out — and at this point it’s been impressive

enough to put him in the lead of this trophy chase in guiding the

Seminoles to a 9-0 record and No. 2 spot in the polls — this will be

part of any conversation with his

candidacy.

Can you vote for Winston knowing

he could be guilty?

If the case isn’t

closed before ballots are due, it will lead some to go with Manziel,

Alabama’s AJ McCarron or Baylor’s Bryce Petty. But much like Newton in

2010, voters owe it to the legacy of the Heisman to fill out their

ballots with only the concrete information available to them and until

formal charges are filed against Winston, this can’t be part of that

decision making.

Can you not vote for

Winston knowing he could be

innocent?

There’s no altering the votes. If

its found Winston did nothing wrong and that’s an error I would hope no

voter wants to live with. If he’s charged or if more information

surfaces, then as a voting populace steps can be made before or after

ballots are due. Reggie Bush had his ’05 trophy vacated and if need be,

the Heisman Trust can do it again.

Winston’s

reputation could be tarnished, and so too, could the the trophy if its

given to him. But it’s a risk that the award’s court of public opinion

may have to live with.

The Heisman is Jameis

Winston’s to lose. Nothing’s changed there.