BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The following is a commentary blog from FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle.
Remember all of that advice your parents gave you when you were a kid? It was all about integrity, honesty, character and doing the right thing. Perhaps it's only after you lose a parent that you finally realize that all of the advice was a good thing.
Just when you thought the Jameis Winston/crab legs story was in your rear view mirror comes a new twist per the quarterback himself. As you remember, Winston received a citation last spring after he walked out of a Publix supermarket without paying for $32 worth of crab legs. Now we learn from Winston himself that it was not a theft but rather a free gift from a Publix employee.
During an appearance on ESPN's Draft Day program, Winston was asked about the incident by Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. Winston told the coaches that he did not steal the crab legs because they were given to him.
"A week before it was my buddy's birthday and we got a cake and we met a dude that worked inside Publix and he said, 'Hey, anytime you come in here, I got you.' So that day we just walked out and he hooked us up with that. And when I came in to get crab legs, I did the same thing and he just gave them to me and I walked out. And someone from inside the store had told the security that I didn't pay for them. And that's how the whole thing started."
Is that really what went down? USA Today reports that a Publix official disputes the new Winston version.
"When we conducted the original investigation with the store associates and management both, we found no information that would corroborate the story that there was any arrangement for Jameis or any other FSU athlete to get any product for free," Maria Brous, Publix's director of media and community relations, said.
Thus we come to the two sides of this saga: what side are you on?
The first: If Winston's new story pans out, Jameis is cool after all! It was not his fault as he was given the seafood! In fact maybe Winston did the right thing as he took the fall for his university. Remember, a free gift to an athlete could have resulted in the NCAA coming down on FSU! And remember, Winston is not the only athlete who has received free gifts, as it is done all the time. Seemingly each day, athletes are receiving new cars, free airline flights, hundred dollar handshakes, concert tickets, money for autographs, jerseys and appearances. Who doesn't take something for free if they have the chance? Winston is merely the product of a corrupt system, a young guy who should not be blamed.
I tend to like the second thought: A college student and team leader should certainly know the difference between right and wrong. If Winston's new story is what really went down, walking out of a store after being given any product could result in charges of theft and/or receiving stolen property. The little angel that hovers over your shoulder certainly must speak louder than the devil that hovers over the other. If you convince yourself that walking away with an unpaid gift is acceptable, your conscience gene is certainly lacking. What next for Winston or other athletes? Driving off a car lot with a new Porsche? Accepting that new Lear jet? While it's probably happened before, it doesn't make it right.
My father died a little less than two years ago, and while I miss him each and every day, there's one story I will always remember that illustrated what a man of character was all about.
A number of years ago my dad arrived home from the drug store with his prescription bottle containing 30 pills, or so he thought. As he sat counting the pills and placing them into his daily pill container, he found that the pharmacist accidentally put 31 pills in the container.
My father quickly hopped back in his car, drove to the drug store and gave back one pill to the pharmacist saying, "Excuse me sir, but you gave me one pill too many."
While you may think that's a bit extreme, I like to think it's a great example of a man possessing true honesty and character. My kids have heard that story, and I hope that they have let it sink in. Class, character, integrity, doing what's right. Now it's me who is the old guy preaching to the children.
I hope that Jameis Winston has a successful NFL career, and maybe shuffling out of Publix with $32 worth of crab legs isn't enough to show those NFL big-wigs that Winston cannot be a true team leader.
I simply hope that he, along with college athletes everywhere, can learn from my father.
Just do the right thing. Your conscience will thank you.