Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston won the Heisman Trophy this weekend, just over a week after the Florida state attorney announced that state would not be pressing charges against him in connection with an alleged rape.
On Friday, The Dallas Morning News' Tim Cowlishaw penned a column about the controversy. Cowlishaw conclusion: Whether or not Winston raped a woman is an open question, but white people should be proud of themselves for not lynching Winston for being black.
Cowlishaw isn't interested in the particulars of the alleged assault because "I have no idea whether or not this is justice and, really, only two people do," he writes.
Yet he has written a whole column about it anyway, because Winston's Heisman Trophy "represents important progress, which has been largely ignored."
Some background on the case: in December 2012, a female FSU student told police that she had been hit in the back of head before Winston assaulted her. A year later, on December 5, 2013, the state attorney's office announced that it would not prosecute Winston, citing a lack of evidence.
Yet the state's investigation into the case didn't begin until this November -- nearly 11 months after the woman reported the alleged attack to the Tallahassee Police Department. The accuser's attorney says the TPD intentionally delayed the investigation, and claims that a TPD officer had told her that Tallahassee is a "big football town, and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against [Winston] because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable."
The state attorney's office admitted that the investigation should have happened sooner. "Obviously it would have been somewhat better if we had been involved a little bit earlier," State Attorney William Meggs announced.
And now, Winston has the Heisman Trophy. Weighing in on all of this, the DMN has published a sports column that reads like a rambling, awkward speech that your drunk football-fan uncle might give you, if you just told your uncle that you got raped by his favorite football player.
The rambling story Cowlishaw tells is an account of a completely different Florida rape case from 1949.
That 1949 case did look fishy. That woman didn't make the rape claim right away, because she was first busy looking for her husband who disappeared after a night of drinking. "It was only later after having caught up with her estranged husband, whom she had fought with the previous night, that she made the rape charge," the DMN explains. Presumably, she made up the story because her husband didn't want her anymore. This is an important point, ladies: Playing rape victim won't make him care again.
Anyway, the Lake County police took the desperate woman's word and rounded up four random black men. The DMN lays out in gory detail what happened next: A mob tried to lynch the men, the sheriff beat the men into producing confessions, and then the sheriff shot and killed one man and wounded another.
Why is the DMN drawing parallels between these two cases? Well, Winston is also a black man, and the 1949 case happened near Orlando, which is "about a three-hour drive from where the investigation of Winston was dropped." And that's it.
The entire DMN column comes down to this bold thesis explaining why Winston's Heisman represents progress: "A black man accused of rape in the South at least has a chance to prove his innocence. "
Come to think of it, it is awfully nice that we give trials to black people accused of crimes instead of automatically lynching them. Hey, black people: You're welcome.
But Cowlishaw would like to make it clear that he's not actually siding with Winston's accuser. He knows nothing about this case. He only knows about the 1949 case so let's bring that up again: "All I know is that while none of the four men tried in Groveland were football players, two had recently returned home from defending their country in Europe during World War II."
He also knows that Winston is a really, really good football player.
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