Last year, the flawed handling of a rape allegation against Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston drew attention to institutional failures by law enforcement and Florida State officials. The accuser's lawyer complained that detectives had seemed most interested in finding reasons not to pursue charges against Winston, a prized recruit who went on to win the Heisman Trophy and lead his team to a national championship. The New York Times reports that far from an aberration, the treatment of the Winston complaint was in keeping with the way the police on many occasions soft-pedaled allegations of wrongdoing by Seminoles football players.
From criminal mischief and motor-vehicle theft to domestic violence, arrests have been avoided, investigations have stalled and players have escaped serious consequences. The Times says that, “In a community whose self-image and economic well-being are so tightly bound to the fortunes of the nation's top-ranked college football team, law enforcement officers are finely attuned to a suspect's football connections. Those ties are cited repeatedly in police reports.” What's more, dozens of officers work second jobs directing traffic and providing security at home football games, and many express their devotion to the Seminoles on social media. Florida State football players have not always sidestepped prosecution. Over the last three years, at least nine players have been arrested on charges ranging from sexual assault to being an accessory to a fatal shooting.
But on other occasions, despite strong evidence, investigations have been delayed and sometimes derailed.