Last week we published our first preseason blog of the year, and predicted that the media would be in rare form this college football season, attacking any teams that threaten a return to power for the SEC. Little could we have guessed the shameless muck-raking would begin within a week of our prediction. On April 16th, the NY Times released their “investigative report” of a flawed rape investigation from Tallahassee involving FSU’s star quarterback Jameis Winston. (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/16/sports/errors-in-inquiry-on-rape-allegations-against-fsu-jamies-winston.html?_r=0) The piece is written by Walt Bogdanich, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. So the LAST thing you would expect is a TMZ-style hack piece dragging an innocent man’s character through the mud and trashing a respected institution over heresay and innuendo. However, that is EXACTLY what you get with this article.
If this is investigative journalism, it is the most pathetic attempt we have ever witnessed. Bad enough to take away any credibility this journalist still has. To begin with, this accusation and story are well over one year old. But the media hashed, hashed and rehashed this story throughout the fall of 2013 ad nauseum. Late last year, Tallahassee was a circus with an athlete-hating states attorney as ringleader, dragging out one of the most detailed investigations we have ever seen over a non-case in history. There was so much digging done, you would think Geraldo found another one of Al Capone’s vaults. But much like Capone’s vault, there was nothing to be found. Not then, and not now.
The facts? A college girl made a rape accusation identifying a man that did not even come close to resembling Mr. Winston. That girl changed her story several weeks later to identify Mr. Winston as her “attacker.” The girl evaded police investigators who were trying to get the evidence needed to arrest the accused. The girl was drug tested and was clean. She was found to be way below the limit of alcohol intoxication. The rape kit revealed no signs of struggle or forced intercourse. And the girl had multiple men’s semen found in her panties, not just Mr. Winston’s. And after failing to follow up with authorities for several months, the girl has a relative/attorney feed the juicy story to TMZ and a local newspaper reporter so that a media circus can erupt. These facts, and the reports that this girl attended FSU football games and cheered on Winston via Social Media some 9 months after her alleged rape, make this an even more egregious railroad attempt than the one that involved the Duke Lacrosse players some years back. Somehow this “investigative journalist” ignored all these aforementioned facts in his article. Is this coincidence? Or was this never an investigative report at all, but just another attempt to rehash a debunked accusation in an attempt to further defame an innocent man and bring about an unwarranted NCAA investigation on a program that threatens SEC Supremacy. You be the judge.
For even a person new to this story, it should warrant a suspicious eyebrow raise. When this alleged incident happened in late 2012, Mr. Winston was a new student on campus and NOT a star quarterback. Despite being a highly touted athlete out of high school, his first love was baseball and prior to the 2013 Spring Game, Winston was second or third on the quarterback depth chart. So the idea that local authorities were working overtime to cover up Winston’s potential crime or make it go away are ridiculous.
Since this NY Times journalist likes conspiracies, maybe he should look at a few other points in this case. Winston was heavily recruited by Alabama and spurned them by choosing Florida State. Only months after arrival, he and other FSU football players are approached at a Tallahassee club and hit on by a group of girls that some campus students reported were known as “cleat chasers.” When Winston and his buddies pick up a couple of these girls, the supposed incident occurs. After changing the story of her “assault” several times with authorities, the girl stops cooperating and reportedly resumes partying, and cheering on Winston and the team at games in the early Fall. Months later after Winston suddenly becomes famous putting up Heisman-like stats, winning huge nationally televised games against Clemson and Miami, and putting FSU in a position to challenge for the national title, this girl ironically THEN re-emerges and cooperates with authorities (after the sale of her story to TMZ, launching a media circus). Out of fear from the fallout, the girl decides to leave FSU. And where does she reportedly go to? The SEC’s University of Alabama. Meanwhile, her relative/attorney (interestingly enough, a graduate of the SEC’s University of Florida) stays behind to hold press conferences to slander Winston to the media DURING an active states attorney investigation (something unheard of in any rape charge case we’ve ever seen). The whole thing unfolds to look like a civil lawsuit inspired money grab media stunt attempt, if not an outright setup. Seems like a stretch to accuse SEC-inspired psycho fans, if not folks at Alabama itself, of orchestrating this whole elaborate mess just to hurt the reputation of one guy and one school. Or is it? There seems to be just as much evidence of THAT as there is a rape at this point now, doesn’t there?
Was something done wrong in this case? Absolutely. For one, the Tallahassee police (much like we expect of the rest of the keystone cops of the South) display a lack of couth and a lack of competence. If there was a belief that the accuser was lying to the police about details of a sexual assault or making a claim that appeared false or contrived, this should have prompted a threat of charges against the accuser, especially if there truly was no evidence to charge the accused with. In the very least, the case should have been pursued or closed and never should have been tucked away in a file drawer to be casually ignored. Furthermore, Winston and his friends, based on the FACTUAL details of this story, are only guilty of being irresponsible young adults who have a lot to learn about life… specifically, properly respecting women (i.e. not taping them during sexual acts), being faithful (Winston cheated on his girlfriend) and avoiding situations that place their own potentially bright futures in jeopardy (i.e. not having sex with every good looking fame-starved girl that hits on you). The accused is guilty of ignorance. The police are guilty of incompetence. And Walt Bogdanich of the NY Times is guilty of irresponsible journalism.
As noted in a previous NY Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/times-insider/2014/04/04/youve-been-turned-down-we-know-how-you-feel/), Walt Bogdanich “was told by an editor in 1984 that he did not have the “intellectual depth” or “ability to write about the subtleties of a complex issue.” Based on this latest one sided muck-raking slam-piece written by Bogdanich, it would seem that this sentiment is still accurate. Perhaps the Pulitzer Prize winner forgot what investigative journalism really is. While SB Nation has writers appear to be capable of getting an interview from one of the “Bag Men” who deliver the money to SEC college football recruits (http://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2014/4/10/5594348/college-football-bag-man-interview), perhaps a guy with the expertise of Mr. Bogdanich could actually be able to dig even further to find out how deep the corruption really is that has driven the SEC to the top of national recruiting ranks. Thanks to the real investigative journalism of SB Nation, we learned this much from a “Bag Man”:
Remember, your job as a bag man isn’t to hide the benefit. It’s to hide the proof. In a region as passionate about college football as the American South, there’s no real moral outrage when new cars or clothes or jobs for relatives appear. We can only get away with whatever’s considered reasonable by the majority of the folks in our society. That’s why it’s different in the SEC. Maybe that’s why we’re able to be more active in what we do.
Mr. Bogdanich, on the other hand, would rather rehash a report from 5 months ago that includes no other new information (other than one convoluted segment where he notes that the friend of a friend of an informant told the accuser that Mr. Winston may have assaulted someone else once, although that person was never actually touched but perhaps just felt “troubled”, or some such innuendo-driven drivel). Rather than an investigative journalist, Mr. Bogdanich sounds like a teenage girl sharing rumors with her friends about Beth from 3rd Period.
Alas, we can be assured that Walt Bogdanich will not now or ever go after the sacred SEC. The amount of money flowing between that dirty conference and multiple media sources is anyone’s guess, but rest assured nobody has the guts to get in the way of the almighty SEC. Especially not a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who has traded his last ounce of respectability for a muck-raking fluff piece, likely inspired by that very conference and its obsessed fan base. Good job Bogdanich. Your lack of intellectual depth and inability to understand the subtleties of this complex case has officially dropped your credibility to the level of those SEC homers who are spreading your TMZ-style article all over the internet.