The two main candidates in the Florida gubernatorial race discussed the issue of Florida State football's influence on the justice system in their final debate Tuesday night.
Charlie Crist (D) and incumbent Rick Scott (R) both responded to a question from host Jake Tapper about whether there was a "serious problem" with Florida State football getting away with crimes due in part to players being considered a "protective class."
In a report earlier this month, The New York Times alleged that police and investigators have "soft-pedaled" allegations of wrongdoing by Florida State players because of their status on the football team.
The report noted the state's slowness in taking action on the rape allegation made against quarterback Jameis Winston in December 2012 and preferred treatment given to receiver Jesus Wilson in a theft case this summer. Fox Sports reported that Florida State "hindered" the investigation into Winston.
On Tuesday, both candidates didn't delve deeply into Florida State specifically but said allegations against all students and athletes need to be be addressed seriously.
Crist (a Florida State alumnus):
This is a problem that America has, and we have to address it in a serious way. And we have to have law enforcement that acts appropriately, and we have to have, you know, state attorneys or whoever might bring those charges, do thorough investigations, get all the facts and then move forward appropriately.
Well, first off, I think every athlete, every student needs to be held to the highest standards. So, I think that if there's allegations, they need to be reviewed. There shouldn't be different standards for anybody. Anybody involved, whether it's going through the schools or through the state attorneys, everybody has to be held to the highest standard.
In response to a follow-up about whether Florida State is being held to the highest standard, Scott seemed to address the Winston case specifically, saying "the state attorney reviewed it and decided not to proceed."
Winston was ultimately not charged with a crime in the rape investigation but currently faces a university disciplinary hearing into the allegation, with which Winston is cooperating. The school's compliance staff also looked into the possibility Winston was paid for his autograph but found no supporting evidence.
Winston has been suspended twice. The first suspension was handed down in the spring after he was cited for stealing crab legs from a supermarket in the spring. Winston was suspended a second time after he shouted an obscene phrase on campus, resulting in a one-game suspension.
- Ben Estes