Jameis Winston’s arc to the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft is more like a trek through dangerously rugged terrain. That he made it to the other end, smiling, is as much an accomplishment as being taken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers first overall.Winston’s talent was never in question—it was all about his character. And in today’s NFL world of multi-million-dollar investments and politically correctness, character concerns are more damning than if he can read a “Cover 2.”The Bucs insist they exhausted themselves looking at Winston’s past: the sexual assault allegations, the “stealing” crab leg saga, the yelling an obscenity on campus situation. . . and the former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback came out clean.This is major. Usually, once a player projects the perception that he is drama, it becomes a label, a tattoo, a permanent fixture. Winston has not breached the label plateau, but he hovers on the precipice, especially when he does what he did Thursday night.After being selected, he posted a photo posing with crab legs, a dig at the naysayers, no doubt. He can take photos with whom he wants. But considering his background, that probably was not the tactful thing to do.“I’ve got to work,” Winston said Thursday night. “Actions speak so much louder than words, or what they may have read or what they may have heard. It’s about your actions. Whatever is in the past is in the past. I look forward to gaining everyone’s trust.”Winston was accused of sexual assault during his freshman season at Florida State but never was charged. “I have been cleared six times,” he said. “I’ve been cleared six times on that situation. So I took that situation so seriously. But, at the end of the day, I’ve got to keep moving forward. That’s why I’m so thankful.”Jason Licht, the team’s general manager, said they gave Winston the once-over more than once. His take away?“Not only were we comfortable with him and his character, we were confident with his character,” Licht said. “We think that his character that he brings to the locker room and the building is a strength. That’s one of the things that makes him a great player.”Lovie Smith, the coach, said he considers Winston a typical young man off the field and extraordinary on it.“I know a lot of things have been said about him,” Smith said. “He’s made some mistakes that young people make from time to time when they’re young. I definitely don’t think that I’ve seen a pattern. Once you get to know him, I just really believe in him. I trust my instincts on people to know who we’re getting.”They’d better be right. Using the No. 1 pick on a failure can be catastrophic to a franchise. Winston, however, showed something that is hard to measure: With all the questions about his character and legal drama swirling around him, he did not flinch on the field.He played outstanding football in rallying the Seminoles. He was a leader. He was tough. He was a supportive teammate. He won.“He’s a champion,” Licht said. “He’s a leader. He’s a winner. He’s got tremendous football character and tremendous intelligence and work ethic. His work ethic was one thing that really put him over the top for us, combined with his leadership and his ‘it’ factor, as well as his ability on the field.”Cleared of the difficult terrain, maybe now Winston can craft an NFL arc that is devoid of scandal. It’d be nice to see him play without distraction. What a novel idea.
By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 48th Annual Legislative Conference is taking place from September 12-16 in the District of Columbia and there is something for everyone who attends.The CBC Conference is co-chaired for the first time by U.S. senators, Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). The conference has scores of issue forums and braintrusts on a variety of topics ranging from foreign policy, civil rights, juvenile justice, entertainment, health and wellness, political and voter engagement, religion and education.Angela Rye of CNN is one of the speakers at the CBCF’s Annual Legislative Conference. (Courtesy Photo)There are academicians, political, social and cultural activists, artists and politicians from every level of government as well as leaders from foreign countries participating in the issue forums and braintrusts.Many of the activities take place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and Bishop Michael Curry, who received worldwide attention for his address at the wedding of the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle earlier this year, are participating in the National Town Hall meeting that takes place on September 13. The theme of the event is “Rise Up: Equality Delayed is Equality Denied.”Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum has been invited to speak on September 14 on a panel sponsored by U.S. Rep. Al Lawson (D-Fla.) FAMU Made: “From Mayor to Mainstreet” that talks about the contributions that Florida A&M University graduates have made in the public sector.The highly-anticipated and well-attended Prayer Breakfast features vocalist Kurt Carr and guest speaker AME Bishop Vashti McKenzie on Sept. 15 at the convention center.“The Prayer Breakfast presents a unique opportunity for attendees to unite in the spirit of hope, faith and love during the Annual Legislative Conference,” A. Shuanise Washington, CBCF president and CEO, said. “As the inspirational high note of the week, we can raise our voices in song and praise while recharging ourselves for the vital work that is still to be done within our community.”The Rev. William Barber II, former president of the North Carolina NAACP and an activist for the poor, is the speaker for the Phoenix Awards Dinner on September 15 also at the convention center.The Community Breakfast and Health Fair will take place on Sept. 13 at the Central Union Mission on Massachusetts Ave., N.W. with CBC members, staff and friends serving the homeless.