Friday, 3 a.m.
You are young. You are gifted. You have a message to share.
But at the same time, if you are Jameis Winston, you can do a little learning, too.
There is this lesson, for instance: The language police are everywhere. Fumble your words, and they will come back to bite you.
Then, there is this lesson, too: Stereotypes are silly. Girls get to be assertive, too. Girls get to be strong. Simple as that.
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And, most of all, there is this lesson, too: Those old allegations when you were at Florida State? They're never very far behind you, are they?
So it is that Winston, in what was supposed to be a lesson taught came away with lessons learned. Perhaps you have heard about it by now. Winston noticed a young guy not paying attention and tried to fire up the boys in the room. In doing so, he dismissed the girls. Yes, it was a clumsy, and it was awkward, and Winston needs a few more apologies before he is done. But was it reason for the national media to drudge up his old sexual assault discussions? I think not.
The important part here is to chide, not hammer. It's a subtle difference, but important. But if, say, Gerald McCoy made the same error, would the reaction have been as strong? I think not.
To recap, Winston dropped by Melrose Elementary to give one of those speeches about belief and faith, and he noticed a boy not paying attention.
"All my young boys, stand up. The ladies, sit down," Winston said. "But all my boys, stand up. We strong, right? We strong! We strong, right? All my boys, tell me one time: I can do anything I put my mind to. Now a lot of boys aren't supposed to be soft-spoken. You know what I'm saying? One day y'all are going to have a very deep voice like this. One day, you'll have a very, very deep voice.
"But the ladies, they're supposed to be silent, polite, gentle. My men, my men (are) supposed to be strong. I want y'all to tell me what the third rule of life is: I can do anything I put my mind to. Scream it!"
The thing is: What is gender specific about such a message. Girls, too, can do what they put their minds to. They can be strong. They don't have to be silent.
"I was making an effort to interact with a young male in the audience who didn't seem to be paying attention, and I didn't want to single him out so I asked all the boys to stand up," Winston said. "During my talk, I used a poor word choice that may have overshadowed that positive message for some."
"The thing is this: If you want to chide Winston for his word choice, well, go ahead. He's just turned 23, but he's been in front of the cameras long enough to know that words are like passes. If you don't aim carefully, it can ruin your whole day.
But when accusations (and, no, Winston was never charged) are this serious, they don't go away. Winston could play in the NFL 10 years, but if he stubs his toe, the media is going to mention his college days again, just like Ray Rice will never leave that elevator where he struck his wife, and Johnny Manziel will always be in one of his thousands of bars. It's unfortunate, but it's the way of the world.
Did Winston deserve the grief he got? No, he didn't. He wasn't profane, and he wasn't insulting. He just forget that belief and faith and strength are for girls and boys.
Winston will get better. He'll get smoother, and he'll choose his words more carefully. I believe that. He was at the school for a noble purpose. Talking to kids is a good thing.
Along the way, Winston screwed up.
But you know what? If I ran a school, I'd want him to drop by and talk to my kids, too. Just, um, be a little more careful about the message next time, okay?