Did Jameis Winston Violate the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy?
Recently the website JoeBucsFan.com, which I enjoy reading and I have contributed statistical data and analysis for them to use as the basis for various articles on their site, published an article (see: http://www.joebucsfan.com/2018/04/expect-reporting-failure-suspend-jameis/#more-196867) stating that they believe Jameis Winston will be suspended at least one game by the NFL over a technicality in the NFL’s “Personal Conduct Policy”.
Now, before I refute, or at least counter the aforementioned article, I will say that if Jameis is suspended for just one game, or even two games, such will not contradict what I wrote in my recent article on this site (see: https://allthingsbuccaneers.com/2018/04/23/atb-special-why-the-nfl-cannot-suspend-jameis-winston/).
In that article I made it clear that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell could certainly suspend Jameis if he desires to do so. Whether there is any evidence of wrongdoing or not, but that doing so would be harmful to the NFL itself, and that the recently released 2018 schedule seems to point to Jameis not being suspended any more than two games, if at all.
The JoeBucsFan.com article states, “Players are obligated under the current conduct policy, as it is posted on NFL.com and the NFL Players Association website, ‘to promptly report any matter that comes to their attention (through, for example, victim or witness reports, law enforcement, or media reports) that may constitute a violation of this Policy’” and that “Per comments from Bucs officials, Jameis did not report the Uber allegation to the Bucs or the NFL when Uber advised him of the official driver complaint and subsequent suspension of his Uber account in March 2016”, and finally that Bucs fans should, “Expect that alone to sink Jameis for at least one game this season, especially given the nature of the allegation”.
However, the facts of that matter are as follows:
(A) The JoeBucsFan.com article is quoting from the new Personal Conduct Policy (see: http://static.nfl.com/static/content/public/photo/2017/08/11/0ap3000000828506.pdf);
The incident in question happened under the NFL’s previous Personal Conduct Policy (see: http://static.nfl.com/static/content/public/photo/2014/12/10/0ap3000000441637.pdf) and that policy did not contain a requirement for player’s to report such matters to the league whatsoever. This being the case, the NFL would have to retroactively punish Jameis for violating its new Personal Conduct Policy, even though when the event happened he was not violating the current Personal Conduct Policy in any way. The NFL could do so, but Jameis would certainly have grounds to not only appeal their decision, but unlike Ezekiel Elliott and Tom Brady, actually win his appeal.
(B) The JoeBucsFan.com article believes that even though Jameis did not violate the Personal Conduct Policy, he was obliged to follow when the event occurred. He did violate the new Personal Conduct Policy and could therefore be suspended.
However, it is not even clear that Jameis violated the new Personal Conduct Policy (the one he wasn’t even obligated to obey as it was not in existence at the time of the alleged incident) as the new PCP states on page 7, “Clubs and players are obligated to promptly report any matter that comes to their attention”.
Right after Buzzfeed broke this story (see: https://www.buzzfeed.com/talalansari/jameis-winston?utm_term=.qux9Kjg6D#.pfD8E1nz3), Jameis himself released a statement that reads, “The accusation is false, and given the nature of the allegation and increased awareness and consideration of these types of matters, I am addressing this false report immediately”. The author of the JoeBucsFan.com article seems to ignore this statement by Jameis entirely. If indeed it is true that Jameis addressed the report of him sexually assaulting the Uber driver known only as “Kate” immediately, he would of course have been in full compliance with even the new Personal Conduct Policy.
(C) While the JoeBucsFan.com article seems to completely ignore Jameis’ statement that he “immediately” addressed the allegation against him, it latches unto the last part of his statement by re quoting him when he stated, “At the time of the alleged incident, I denied the allegations to Uber, yet they still decided to suspend my account”. They even go so far as to say that such a statement means Jameis “failed on that obligation” and that such a failure “will sink him for at least one game this season unless the NFL decides to go softer on Jameis than it has on other players”.
I’m sorry but this is preposterous. The author of the aforementioned article is simply reading something into Jameis’ statement that is not there. Jameis merely said that he “denied the allegations to Uber” and that he did so at the time the “alleged incident” occurred. So the question is, “what were the allegations Uber made Jameis aware of, that Jameis denied?”
To answer that question, one must allow Uber to speak for themselves, which they did in a recorded message left for Jameis himself. As reported by the Tampa Bay Times Rick Stroud, (see: http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/bucs/2017/11/17/call-from-uber-office-seems-to-confirm-jameis-winstons-claim-he-wasnt-only-passenger/), Jameis received the following message from Uber itself:
“Hi Jameis, this is Chris calling from the Uber office, I’m following up on a report we had from one of your recent trips where you or someone in the vehicle with you had some inappropriate behavior. I just want to follow up and get some more information on that. Your Uber account is on temporary hold while we investigate the situation. I’ll follow up with e-mail and hopefully we can find a better time to connect.”
The above message from Uber provides us with a clear answer to our question as the only “allegation” referenced by Uber was merely that Jameis “or someone in the vehicle” partook in some “inappropriate behavior”.
That was the allegation that Jameis denied to Uber and that allegation, namely that he “or someone in the vehicle” partook in some form of “inappropriate behavior”, is not something that Jameis would need to report to the NFL, even under the new Personal Conduct Policy. As such ambiguous “inappropriate behavior” would not violate said Personal Conduct Policy unless it was clearly defined as behavior the NFL forbids its players from participating in.
Uber could leave the exact same message for people that use curse words around drivers who find such offensive, or for users who listen to certain forms of music, or watch certain types of films on their phones around drivers who find such offensive. None of which would be a violation of the NFL’s old or new Personal Conduct Policy, and therefore the vague “inappropriate behavior” mentioned by Uber was not something Jameis needed to report to the NFL whatsoever.
(D) The JoeBucsFan.com article also seems to read into Jameis’ statement even further and to purport that when Jameis said in his statement that reads, “At the time of the alleged incident, I denied the allegations to Uber”, he was admitting to knowing about the accusation “Kate” made about him to BuzzFeed.
The JoeBucsFan.com article’s author would have you believe that when Jameis said, “At the time of the alleged incident, I denied the allegations to Uber” he actually said, or meant, “At the time of the alleged incident, I denied the allegation that I grabbed the crotch of the driver known as ‘Kate’ to Uber”.
However, that is not what Jameis said and to imply that that was what Jameis said is unfair and requires some mental gymnastics.
The reason I say the above is simply because not only are Jameis’ words quite clear as-is and not in any need of deciphering or twisting to fit a particular agenda, but the simple fact is that the allegations “Kate” has made, have changed quite dramatically over time.
Her initial accusation was a text that is pictured in the above linked Buzzfeed article.
In it “Kate” texts Uber with incident details and states that one of her passengers who is “apparently a big athlete in the NFL” had “put his fingers on my crotch”. However in a later text, also pictured in the BuzzFeed article she texts someone that “an nfl qb named Jameis Winston” had “grazed his fingers over my pants”. However, when the Buzzfeed article came out, Kate was then quoted as saying that Jameis, “grabbed my crotch” and that he “held his hand there for three to five seconds”.
So, what is clear is that “Kate” filed an incident report with Uber and stating that a passenger (she did not name Jameis at all in the initial incident report) had “put his fingers on my crotch” and later stated in a text that Jameis “grazed his fingers over my pants”. Uber then left a message for Jameis saying they had received a report that he “or someone in the vehicle” had partaken in some “inappropriate behavior” without giving any actual details about what that “inappropriate behavior” was, and Jameis immediately refuted such an allegation to Uber itself.
Around twenty months later Buzzfeed runs an article quoting “Kate” as saying that Jameis “grabbed my crotch”. After hearing of this specific allegation, Jameis immediately denies any wrongdoing and also states that when this “alleged incident”, meaning the newly alleged crotch grabbing incident, occurred, he denied “the allegations”, meaning the initial allegation that Uber alerted him to, namely that he “or someone in the vehicle” had partaken in some “inappropriate behavior”. And, again, the ambiguous “inappropriate behavior” that he “or someone in the vehicle” was guilty of, was not something that needed to be reported to the NFL as ambiguous “inappropriate behavior” is not something that is automatically against the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy and therefore does not need to reported whatsoever.
Simply put, I believe if one looks at the actual facts of this case and the actual words spoken and or typed by “Kate”, Uber and Jameis Winston himself, it becomes manifestly clear to all rationale thinkers, be they Bucs fans or merely casual football fans, that Jameis Winston did not violate in any way the NFL’s old Personal Conduct Policy, and that even if the NFL were to somehow hold him accountable to the wording of the new Personal Conduct Policy (a policy that did not exist at the time of the incident in question), he did not even violate the new policy.
I maintain that Jameis Winston should not be suspended for even one game as the NFL cannot afford to set a precedent whereby its players are suspended based on nothing more than unsubstantiated allegations. I further state that even if the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy is used as a tool to punish Winston with, he should not be suspended or even fined by the NFL as he was in full compliance with the old PCP, which was in effect when the alleged incident took place, and was even in compliance with the current PCP which had not even been written when the alleged incident took place.
Finally, I would like to say that while many in the media and certainly in the public like to criticise and even verbally abuse Winston (a simple look at the comment sections on his Instagram and Twitter pages will reveal this) about the unsubstantiated allegation made by “Kate” as well as previous alleged incidents, the fact remains that to this day, Jameis Lanaed Winston has never been charged or even merely arrested, let alone convicted of anything.
It may not be popular to say that Jameis Winston is not only a role model but a wonderful role model, but considering the fact that even a Walter Payton Man of the Year winner and a future HOF’er that is lauded league-wide, Larry Fitzgerald, was once at least accused of physically assaulting the mother of his child (see: http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/95846100/arizona-cardinals-larry-fitzgerald-domestic-violence-accusation-tmz), we know that reputations are built over full careers and not over mere unsubstantiated allegations.
And, in a world where many lauded athletes who are considered role models have been not only been arrested and charged but literally convicted of crimes, such as: Allen Iverson, Bernard Hopkins, Pete Rose, Irving Fryar, Nikolai Khabibulin, Boris Becker and others, as well as many current NFL players that are also considered role models that have at the very least been arrested, such as: Von Miller, Jason Peters, Everson Griffen and Vincent Jackson, it is a fact that Jameis Winston, especially with all the wonderful charitable work he does and the massive amounts of time he dedicates to children and the Tampa community, can most definitely be a solid role model for many young men and women today, whether the NFL suspends him based on a technicality or not.