KAREEM COPELAND Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Jameis Winston has been benched for the first half of Saturday’s game against Clemson after making “offensive and vulgar” comments about women and Florida State officials say that the quarterback will undergo internal discipline.
The decision was announced Wednesday in a joint statement by Florida State interim President Dr. Garnett S. Stokes and athletic director Stan Wilcox. Several students tweeted Winston stood on campus Tuesday and shouted a lascivious comment about female anatomy that may have derived from an internet meme.
The president and AD said, “As the university’s most visible ambassadors, student-athletes at Florida State are expected to uphold at all times high standards of integrity and behavior that reflect well upon themselves, their families, coaches, teammates, the Department of Athletics and Florida State University. Student-athletes are expected to act in a way that reflects dignity and respect for others.”
The 20-year-old Winston addressed his inappropriate comments before Wednesday’s practice at his weekly press conference, saying: “I have to tone it down.”
The Heisman Trophy winner gave a statement in which he added, “I just want to apologize to my university, my coaches and my teammates. I’m not a me person, but in that situation it was a selfish act. That’s not how you do things. I really want to apologize to my teammates because I have now made a selfish act for them.”
Winston‘s latest poor off-field decision comes when Florida State is under scrutiny.
Florida State is currently under investigation by the Department of Education for the way it handles reports of sexual assault, including a case involving Winston. The investigation was prompted by a complaint from a FSU student who says Winston assaulted her in 2012.
Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs declined to press charges against Winston last fall.
A lawyer for the woman says the university is currently conducting its own investigation of that incident.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher had said earlier Wednesday that the quarterback would be held accountable for his “derogatory” remarks.
“It’s not something we want or we’re indicative of and it’s not a good decision,” Fisher said. “It was something that has to be addressed.
“You can’t make certain statements that are derogatory or inflammatory in any way toward any person, race, gender,” said Fisher, whose top-ranked Seminoles host No. 22 Clemson on Saturday in an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown. “The statements in which you make are always going to be made more public than statements that other individuals make,” the coach said. “And that’s just the nature of the business of who you are and what you are. That’s the situation it is and you have to understand that.”
Winston is no stranger to unwanted attention.
While playing for Florida State baseball team, he was suspended for three games and completed 20 hours of community service after acknowledging he stole $32 worth of crab legs from a local grocery store in April. He faced criticism nationwide and was the subject of taunts and jokes in print, online and on social media.
Winston has had other run-ins with police since enrolling at Florida State. Police questioned Winston and other FSU players in November 2012 after 13 windows were broken at an apartment complex near Doak Campbell Stadium after an apparent BB gun battle. That same month, Winston and teammate Chris Casher were held at gunpoint by campus police for hunting squirrels. The two told police they were shooting squirrels with a pellet gun along a bike trail. Police were also called after a Burger King employee called to complain that Winston was stealing soda.
Winston was not arrested in any of those three incidents.
The Seminoles rolled over Clemson last season 51-14 en route to a national championship.
Winston threw for 444 yards, three touchdowns and ran for another score in a game that put him in the driver’s seat for the Heisman trophy.
“I want to be out on the field with my team, but I did something, so I have to accept the consequences,”
Winston said. “I’m going to apologize to my team. We’re not going to think about that, because we don’t think about negative things. We’re going to think about moving forward and winning the game.”
Florida State sports information director Elliott Finebloom asked for football-related questions only after Winston read his statement. He did not allow Winston to answer three different questions during the nearly nine-minute session. The last time ended the press conference.
KAREEM COPELAND Associated Press