A Public Disservice?: How FSU is Crippling its African-American Male Athletes

Make no mistake about it. In Tallahassee, Florida, the home of the BCS National Champion Florida State Seminoles, members of the top ranked Seminole football team are treated like Gods. FSU administrators, fans, and supporters make certain that FSU emblemtheir gridiron warriors receive the best of everything that the city of Tallahassee, Florida State University, and athletics has to offer. From an outsiders perspective, these young men are provided the best housing, food, and everything else. The alluded to privilege apparently extends to privileged treatment from local law enforcement agencies and officers.

In the early morning of October 5th 2014, Florida State University’s starting defensive back P.J. Williams was involved in a severe car wreck that culminated with both cars being totaled.  According to a New York Times report, instead of staying at the scene Williams left his vehicle in the middle of the street and fled into the night flanked by two other young men.  Williams later returned to the accident scene that Tallahassee officers correctly labeled a hit-and-run. The last time I checked, this charge was a criminal offense, however, officers thought different and merely issued the gridiron star a pair of traffic tickets for making an illegal left turn and “unknowingly” driving with a suspended license. Incredibly, the officers called to the scene failed to issue Williams a breathalyzer exam or inquiring about his sobriety. This is hardly the first time that success on the football field has trumped a pursuit of justice for the Seminole nation.

In a separate New York Times report it was established that the Florida State University police department, in conjunction with Tallahassee police have been giving football players preferential treatment regarding their dealings with local law enforcement authorities. Local police departments have repeatedly soft pedaled accusations or covered up incidents involving Seminole football players.

There has been a litany of problems for the Seminole program and its coach, Jimbo Fisher. This alluded to trouble begins at the top with Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston who was accused of sexually assaulting a female student. Predictably, winstonthe District Attorney declined to prosecute Winston, citing a lack of evidence. The vast majority of the Seminole Nation not only took Winston’s side, but also jubilantly celebrated when ‘the process worked itself out.’ Despite their refusal to recognize it, the process was rigged as indicated by new evidence that depicts collusion between university police and the athletic department to ensure that Winston were not prosecuted. There is most definitely a ‘lack of institutional control’ at FSU.

One must take their hat off to the Seminole nation, they are consistent in their protection of athletes, a protection that extends well beyond the notorious quarterback. When Jesus Wilson, a Seminole wide receiver, was stopped for being in possession of a stolen scooter, he avoided arrest grand theft charges because the officer took his word that he “borrowed” the scooter from a fellow student whose last name he could not recall. There have been a plethora of additional incidents of Seminole players engaging in a menagerie of criminal activities; none of the transgressions have resulted in a criminal prosecution.

The lackadaisical attitude taken by the Tallahassee police department and campus police must come to an end. These young men need to be held accountable for their actions.  Their status as high profile student athletes on a national championship winning Seminole Football team should not exempt them from receiving any repercussions for their illicit activities. This environment FSU2fostered by law enforcement agencies, college administrators, and athletic coaches has led to these young men callously and brazenly disrespecting the law. Although FSU has once again climbed out of the doldrums of athletic mediocrity and re-emerged as a NCAA Football power, the question that should be posed is, at what cost has this occurred? From the perspective of Seminole nation, the cost has been slight; the bill is merely doing a drastic disservice to the African-American men who battle for them on a weekly basis. Seminole nation has crippled these lawless young men by reversing a historical record and contemporary reality that displays that no African-American male, regardless of his individual achievements, is above the long arm of the law.

The fact of the matter is that many athletically gifted African-American males have been getting away with “murder” since they first displayed superior athletic ability in grade school. We all know that high school athlete who had privilege extended to him by coaches, females, and sports boosters, so routinely that he began to think that it was how the world operated. Hence, the fact that Winston, and his Seminole teammates, arrived on campus prisonexpecting a continuation of the privilege they had learned to expect from their K-12 experience is not only understandable, but also predictable. Unfortunately, such a situation not only does a disservice to that particular athlete, but also adoring Black youth who believe that if they only focused their energies in athletics then they would receive a “pass” through societal troubles and legal issues. Unfortunately, such a sagging pantsperspective is not only fallacious, but also propping Black youth up for a major let down, because life will be a tough taskmaster for the majority of African-American men. And one thing is certain, the last thing Black America needs is more young black men believing that they are exempt from social norms or above-the-law due to their ability to run, kick, or throw a ball. There is quite possibly no greater means of handicapping our youth and ensuring that our young men end up broken by a society that will merely discard them when they are no longer of any utility.

Alexander Goodwin

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