Who's Really In Charge Here?

Over the past few years, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has come under fire for the way the league office has handled disciplinary actions throughout the National Football League.

College football programs like Penn State University, Baylor University, Vanderbilt and Florida State University just to name a few, have all been criticized for their handling of sexual misconduct and criminal behavior by its athletes and faculty.

Former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in prison after more than 150 women came forward and said he sexually abused them dating back to at least 1997. That uncovered a history of abuse at the university, tied to both the school's football and basketball programs.

As more women and men come forward with their tales of abuse, I’ve began to have this internal conversation with myself that revolves around a single question, "Why do people expect these leagues to punish players harder than the police?". And the more I ask myself why these things were allowed to happen, the more I tell myself, “You KNOW why.”

Our fascination with sports and the spectacle surrounding it has placed athletes in a different sector of society, seemingly free from many of the rules that us regular folks are forced to follow.

So when athletes are accused of criminal activity, the victim of said activity can immediately find himself or herself in a hole.

One recent example of this would be the Jameis Winston sexual assault case.

When Jameis Winston’s accuser Erica Kinsman first went to the hospital, she was met by a police officer named Scott Angulo. Unfortunately for Kinsman, Angulo just so happened to also be a Florida State fundraiser and diehard Seminoles fan. 

After she told the officer what happened, Angulo suggested Kinsman think twice before pressing charges, telling her, “This is a huge football town. You really should think long and hard if you want to press charges.”

That’s insane. This man really looked an 18 year old in the face and basically said, “Hey, I understand that you may have possibly just gone through a life altering experience, but we really need you to keep quiet for the sake of the program.”

Tampa Bay Times

Tampa Bay Times

Charges were never filed against Winston, and Florida State would go on to run the table and win a National Championship one year later. Jameis left Tallahassee a hero, and is still welcomed back with open arms.

The same can’t be said for Erica Kinsman, who left school after receiving death threats once her accusations became public. Although the rape kit she took at the hospital proved that sexual intercourse with Winston did indeed occur, police and Winston have maintained that the sex was consensual.

Florida State University eventually reached a $950,000 settlement with Kinsman, $700,000 of which went to her attorneys. FSU also agreed to make a five-year commitment to awareness, prevention and training programs geared toward sexual assault.

It’s insulting that a five year commitment was announced for something that should be practiced daily, but much like NFL owners when selecting players with a history of domestic violence or sexual assault, winning football games is always the primary goal.

Unfortunately, this has become our reality. After spending decades allowing sports to take precedent over much larger issues in society, we now have created a culture where people clamor for reactionary tactics from leagues and governing bodies instead of demanding more from law enforcement.

Roger Goodell shouldn’t have to waver back and forth on the length of suspensions, because truthfully the players committing those crimes should be incarcerated just like you and I would.

If that were the case, then Goodell and other governing bodies would have more time to spend on their ultimate goal; raising their bottom line.