Jameis Winston, star quarterback of the Florida State University Seminoles football team, is the projected first draft pick for NFL. There is no denying his talent and skill on the football field. He was the winner of the Heisman Trophy in 2013 and led his team to a national title. Every pass, catch and play Winston completes on the field is an indicator of his talent and reminder of his potential. His aggression and decision-making in games are darn-near incomparable; however, in other environments these attributes don’t translate well. Jameis Winston has a record—several incidents have put his character in question.
According to a timeline via foxsports.com, Winston’s history is filled with incidents involving misuse of pellet guns, $4,000 in damages to his apartment building, stealing crab legs from a supermarket and, worst of all, accusations of rape. But unfortunately, this is a common theme among college athletes, particularly males. As George Orwell observed, “Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence; in other words it is war minus the shooting.”
According to Jeff Benedict and Todd Crosset via an article concerning violence statistics from ncava.org, 20% of college football recruits in the Top 25 Division I teams have criminal records. Further, a new incident of athlete crime emerges once every two days—that does not include crimes that were unreported in the media. In the three years preceding 1998, around 1000 charges were brought against athletes. While the general population has a conviction rate of 80%, the conviction rate of an athlete is 38%. This shows a very obvious correlation between athletes and general crime. Too many athletes are falling prey to the negative effects that unfortunately often result in violent and sexual crimes.
In another three-year study of male athletes by Benedict and Crosset, who at the time of the study compromised about 3.3% of population, they were 19% of sexual assault perpetrators and 35% of domestic violence perpetrators. In 1995, while only 8.5% of the general population was charged with assault, 36.8% of athletes were charged with assault. One in three college rapists are athletes and a college rapist will have raped seven times before being caught. Is this a direct consequence of the socialization of the cyclical aggression and ‘must-win’ attitude being integrated into larger social circles and society as a whole? It can easily be argued that taking part in a sport in its simplest form is a contract to pursue aggression in the face of opposing teams. Excluding games and practices, does this behavior continue as an intrinsic response? Is it a conditioned set of actions that affects only a select few within the population of student athletes?
More importantly, what is being done about this? Given the immense amount of information that is readily accessible on athletes—specifically college athletes—and crime, the trend is not difficult to determine. Athletes are committing crimes at maddeningly high rates, but the lack of discussion and reprobation for these actions affectively make them acceptable among the athletic community. So often, as seen with Jameis Winston and many others, there is a disregard for their transgressions.
So regularly are athletes not only left punished improperly for their crimes, but also chosen for elite teams and awarded for their athleticism. What message does this send to their peers, as well as those that look to them as role models? A stronger punishment system would be preferable to take action against these kinds of problems. Along with more sensitivity education and services for those struggling with their aggression could lessen the prevalence of this, greatly decreasing the percentages of these crimes in the future. Moreover, there should be no discussion on light punishment in the place of proper punishment. If a crime is committed it should be treated as such.