What happened exactly?
On April 29th, 2014, Jameis Winston received an Adult Civil Citation for shoplifting roughly $32 worth of seafood from a local Publix. This event came after the Seminoles football team won the National Championship, Winston had won the prestigious Heisman Trophy and in the middle of baseball season for the Seminoles.
Winston entered the Publix store on N. Ocala Rd just before 9pm EST and picked up an order of crawfish and crab legs. According to Leon County Sheriffs Office (LCSO) reports, he came to Publix to place the order, left and returned to pick them up then left the store without paying for them. LCSO made contact with Winston later that night around midnight to handle the issue and issue.
Was it a mistake or did he purposely steal them?
By all indications and by Winston’s own admission to the LCSO, it was a mistake. He acknowledged to leaving Publix without paying for the items, said he forgot and realized it after he returned home, then made no effort to return to the store and pay for the items before LCSO deputies arrived somewhere around midnight the same night.
Other than him just saying it, why should we believe it was really a mistake and he didn’t just lie?
You can never absolutely know for sure of course unless you are Jameis Winston, but let’s look at some of the evidence we can find.
In the video linked above, you can see an officer come out from behind the Customer Service Counter and leave out the same door just before Winston leaves. This was an entrance door with no checkout lanes in front of it and right next to the entrance to the administrative offices with managers and others frequently passing by in this corner of the store so you can be easily spotted shoplifting. It is also right in front of the makeup aisle, which after speaking with a Publix Loss Prevention contact, is the aisle they monitor the most since makeup items are stolen the most and cause the most revenue losses given their small size and high prices.
On the opposite side of the Customer Service Counter is a set of exit doors 2-3 times wider than the entrance area because it is where all the lines and registers are. Beyond the exit doors is another set of doors between the bakery and deli with a single checkout area over there.
If you are stealing something, it makes no sense to use the same door, where employees frequent the most, a police officer is using and walk out about a six feet behind him with your stolen items being held right up in the open and drawing more attention to yourself doing it at the only door in the store meant solely for entering the store. You have two other exit options where the officer was not within proximity and would fit into a crowd better and draw less attention to yourself by walking out with others leaving after paying for their items.
There have been some accusations floating around that it is something smart criminals do, the unexpected by walking out near a police officer and he planned it that way. That seems to be ridiculous based on the video and common sense. Jameis Winston has never had any issue being caught stealing anything before or after this incident so to assume he is some mastermind criminal who is up to date on the latest criminal techniques in between his time in the classroom and on the field is a bit absurd. Let’s recall, this is a kid who has never been in trouble, has been exceptional on the playing field and has kept his grades high enough he was accepted to one of the toughest universities to get into in Stanford before enrolling in FSU, has been a member of the All-ACC Academic Football Team and one of only two players honored for their academic success last year in the relatively new Golden Torch Banquet. If he was such a criminal mastermind, I doubt he would do it near where potentially employees would be around, near an officer, near the aisle a Loss Prevention officer would likely frequent and through the entrance door where other shoppers are making their way in.
You can see in the video, Winston comes all the way down the first aisle where the makeup is across from the Pharmacy and never changes his pace. He walks all the way from the back of the store where you can see the dairy products, all the way out the front without changing his pace while not being able to see, much less plan, on following the officer out the door.
Protocols at other stores:
Other grocery stores often have a different procedure in place for ordering items from a deli, seafood or other department and you can often pay for your items there, if not required to in some cases.
If you are used to the process another store uses, it can understandably be easy to make a mistake and walk out without the feeling you are stealing the item and just go with your usual routine.
Less than two miles away and around the corner from this Publix location is a Winn-Dixie store location. This store has such a process and had been frequented by Winston prior to this incident.
TomahawkNation.com, one of the leading local news outlets who cover everything about Florida State athletics, covered the story as it unfolded. The day after the incident, Tomahawk Nation tweeted confirming Winn-Dixie uses a different protocol and Winston had purchased crab legs from them previously.
The need to do it:
The final reason, and perhaps most important, he simply just didn’t need to do it.
Weeks before this incident, the NCAA changed their policies on how often a player could be fed meals after hearing of cases of players going hungry and programs violating NCAA rules by feeding hungry players when it was not allowed. Previously, players were only allowed three meals a day or a stipend. Sometimes weekends and trips had different rules. Obviously, football players are big guys in general and burn many more calories as athletes than the average student does, so it would seem to make sense only feeding them 3 meals a day during the week would not quite satisfy the hunger of most of them. Starting weeks before the incident at Publix, the NCAA changed their policy so programs can feed their athletes as often as needed so they will never go hungry.
At FSU specifically, they often have crab legs featured as their menu item as we recently found out when they were fed to recruits visiting for their football game against Clemson. About four years ago, Florida State introduced crab legs as one of their staple menu items for their athletes. That year, FSU released a video on the Jimbo Fisher Show about their new nutrition plan and the crab legs were mentioned as being a player favorite.
Here are some screen shots from the mentioned video highlighting the crab legs Winston can get regularly without having to steal them:
So clearly, he just didn’t need to. For all these reasons and more, it is easy to draw the conclusion it was an honest mistake just like Winston admitted to the officers that night.
Why wasn’t he suspended for a football game?
Originally, when Winston had the language incident, members of the media on national television kept proclaiming he was not punished at all for the incident because he had never been suspended for a game before until then.
Although it is true he had yet to be suspended for a football game to that date, he did receive fair punishment for this incident. It happened late in the baseball season just weeks before the ACC tournament. Winston received an Adult Civil Citation, fined $30, sentenced to community service and was suspended from the baseball team until the fine was paid and community service completed. This caused Winston to miss 3 baseball games, the entire series against the University of Minnesota.
Many may believe all Winston cares about is football and baseball is just something he does for fun in the offseason, but such an assumption is completely false. Most underestimate just what baseball means to him. One of the primary reasons he even committed to FSU out of high school, is because they were one of the very few to allow him to play both sports and he is sure to mention he wants to continue playing both in many video interviews such as the last ACC Media Day event and even mentioned Coach Mike Martin in his Heisman Trophy speech.
Baseball is extremely important to Winston, as is his baseball teammates. When teammate DJ Stewart was aggressively approached by the University of Florida firstbaseman during a midweek rivalry game last week after Stewart ran over both him and the pitcher in a legal play running down the line causing benches to clear, Winston was one of the first off the bench to come to the defense of teammate. Anyone who has ever played an inning of baseball at any level knows you do not just sit on your hands in the dugout when your teammate is being surrounded by members of the other team near their dugout. His actions and subsequent suspension from taking the crab legs caused him to let down those guys he would literally go to battle with which is punishment in itself for a player like Winston.
You also can not suspend a player a second time when the season for another sport comes around just because he happens to be gifted enough to play two sports. Had it happened during football season, then sure, suspend him for a football game at most. That might be a stretch given the circumstances, but may be the only appropriate time, however if that had happened, nobody would have tried arguing he should have been suspended for a baseball game as well when that season finally rolled around. It would make no sense and neither does trying to suspend him for a football game based on what happened after he served a baseball suspension.
Finally, it’s just courtesy among coaches. Florida State baseball Head Coach Mike Martin, often referred to by his nickname 11, has been at FSU for over 30 years and is one of the most successful and respected baseball coaches of all time. Suspending Winston for a football game after he was already suspended for an entire baseball series, would make it seem as if baseball didn’t matter and would greatly undermine the authority of Florida State’s longest tenured athletic coach.
At the end of the day, the idea he purposely stole them just seems to make little to no sense. It looks like an honest mistake and he paid the price for it as he should have. Because of this event, he has become the butt of many jokes from rivals, football fans all around the country and even FSU fans themselves as has been seen on multiple ESPN Gameday shows and that’s great.
That’s what makes college sports so much fun. I would have been disappointed if it was not made a laughing matter. It’s crab legs, it’s silly, it’s just really funny, especially because of how stupid it sounds, and if you aren’t having fun with these kinds of things then you should probably reconsider your interest in the college football world. It’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun playing it, fun watching it and poking fun at teams and players for off the field issues is a part of that as long as you can have fun with it and take it as much as you dish it out.
A player who made a funny mistake and gave fans ammunition at funny jokes and signs? Yes. A mastermind criminal thief? Not at all.