College football has dominated the attention of fans every Saturday during its season, and its elite players have become idols in the process.
Another year has drawn to a close with Florida State University’s Jameis Winston leading the Seminoles to a stunning victory over the University of Auburn in the BCS National Championship. The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback was cheered for by millions, and stood to a roaring crowd with the Coaches’ Trophy lifted.
But a month earlier he was holding his breath as Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs announced whether or not to charge him with sexual battery.
An ongoing investigation was conducted as Winston was accused of rape taking place in December 2012.
A police report told that the victim had several bruises after the incident, and soon her clothes and a rape kit were collected. Winston provided a DNA profile, and it matched a sample gathered from the accuser’s underwear.
The matching DNA cast doubt over the quarterback and the course of that night, but not enough evidence was brought forward for the state attorney to stick any charges to the freshman.
More unsettling, however, was the unquestionable confidence restored to the quarterback.
Have college athletics become so entertaining that fans can now look away from serious allegations against its players?
These accusations should not be passed over just because there wasn’t sufficient evidence to charge Winston. If the quarterback was just another college student in Tallahassee, would spectators have the same perspective on the case?
Rape is horrifying for its victims, and should not go unnoticed.
Victims are humiliated, and as a result, sexual assault is unreported at a rate higher than most other crimes. What’s even more disturbing in the case of Winston are reports of threats emerging against his accuser.
The loss of an essential member to a football team is absolutely no reason to make barbaric threats against someone that has possibly been taken advantage of. What courage can future rape victims muster when precedents such as these are set?
Society cannot cherish college football to the point where it overlooks gruesome crimes.
No amount of dynamic play on Saturday can overshadow what college athletes do off the field.
Athletes need to be held accountable for their actions just like the rest of the student body, and fans should not be consumed by their love for the game to be ignorant to their morals and values.
Eric Heubusch is a freshman majoring in mass communications.