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How Will 'Off-The-Field' Issues Affect Jameis Winston's NFL Prospects?


Thursday night is the first round of the NFL draft. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the first pick and they're widely expected to choose quarterback Jameis Winston. At 6-foot-4, Winston is the perfect build for a quarterback. He led his Florida State team to 26 wins and a national title. He went on to win the Heisman. But one phrase seems to dominate every discussion about his draft chances.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: And Winston - the off the field issues kind of cloud the situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Because the off the field issues are there.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Off the field distraction...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: I understand the off the field issues.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: Now the question mark for Winston we know, they're going to come off the field.

RATH: Sarah Spain is a columnist at ESPNW. I asked her to explain just what those issues are.

ESPNW COLUMNIST SARAH SPAIN: A couple lesser incidents involving allegedly stealing crab legs from a Publix supermarket. He's since said he was given them as a gift from one of the employees. Using a BB gun to hunt squirrels - he was stopped by police and then there was later reports of a BB gun battle that evening in an apartment. He jumped up on a table in the student cafeteria and yelled an expletive involving sexual acts with women. And then the biggest one is a sexual assault case - a classmate at Florida State alleges that he sexually assaulted her several years ago. Actually never went to trial - they said there was not enough to file criminal charges. Now it has gone on to a civil trial.

RATH: How has that been playing out in the sports media?

SPAIN: It's certainly been covered. You can't complain of a lack of coverage when it comes to this. A lot of times, off-the-field issues are sort of swept under the rug. But this has become a big enough story that it's impossible to discuss Winston and his draft chances and where he might go and what team might select him without addressing the issue. There's really a lot of people on either side who believe that he's innocent and that he will be successful on the pro-level and then people who say that all of these incidents adding up would really be a warning sign for anyone who's looking to give $15 - $20 million guarantee to this kid right out of college.

RATH: Now, it goes without saying that violence against women isn't just a problem for the NFL. You, Sarah, wrote a column last fall suggesting people boycott the fights of Floyd Mayweather. Can you first explain why - your thinking behind that?

SPAIN: You know, with Mayweather, he's been convicted five times on domestic battery and assault. He's pled guilty and served jail time. He's currently undergoing another case involving his former fiancee. It's an endless stream of legal issues relating to violence against women over the past 15-plus years, and he's really never been punished for it. Even when he served jail time, the judge pushed back the start of his jail appearance in order for him to have a fight that was already scheduled.

And with Mayweather it's different than a team sport. That's not to say you shouldn't hold teams or leagues accountable for team sports as well, but in the case of Floyd Mayweather, everyone who purchases his fight is putting money in his pocket. He could have over $180 million payday for this fight alone.

RATH: And, Sarah, even just beyond the media with this, I mean, we talked about the NFL and there was really a sense of fans being fed up and wanting to hold, you know, the organization's feet to the fire more. With the case of Mayweather and boxing, do you get the sense that there is - is the outrage the same?

SPAIN: No. And I think part of that is there's no central figure to make a villain of. Roger Goodell is the face of the NFL and his decisions have long been criticized on a variety of things. The ability to go after him and the league makes it easy for people to sort of attach an opponent to their arguments.

Boxing - there isn't a person that everyone knows to go to. And unfortunately, people just don't care as much about holding boxing's feet to the fire on issues as they do about paying their money and watching the fight with their friends.

RATH: That's Sarah Spain. You can watch here and read her work at ESPN.com. Sarah, thank you.

SPAIN: Yeah, thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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