Heather Cox Owes No Apology for Jameis Winston Interview

Whether or not Florida State freshman QB Jameis Winston is completely innocent or was the beneficiary of a police coverup in the case of his being an alleged sexual offender will be debated and talked about forever. Forget there were no charges filed following what appeared to be a complete and exhaustive investigation by authorities in Tallahassee, Florida and from the State itself. Certain questions will never go away and will never be answered. As of this writing, we haven’t seen the last of this story. But what we deal with here is this specific part of the story.

When it comes to questions asked by ESPN reporter Heather Cox during a post-game interview of Winston following his official exoneration by those same authorities, one answer is simple and final.

Cox owes no one an apology for her line of questioning. Not Jameis Winston. Not FSU. And certainly not those who have taken to social media to excoriate her for “badgering” or “crossing a line”. From the standpoint of a broadcast journalist, she did her job almost perfectly.

Almost. The one part of her interview that could be questioned wasn’t wrong and wasn’t over a line, merely excitement of the moment and well within current journalistic standards.

Let’s watch and listen to the interview in question:

FSU and Winston knew this interview was going to happen, so they were prepared for it. ESPN has a huge financial stake in college football, and thus would never turn a reporter loose at such a time to ask questions that might be damaging or bring disrepute to the player, the school, the game or their broadcast rights. It is a billion dollar symbiotic relationship. ESPN would never tell her to soft shoe the questions, rather ask the pertinent ones but don’t go overboard. They may say for public consumption they pt no restrictions on Cox, but that’s a dual-edged sword. If they did, they would never tell. And if they didn’t, Cox certainly knows where her paycheck emanates from and would never go overboard.

FSU knew what was gong to happen. There is no evidence whatsoever they told her what she could and couldn’t ask. I suspect someone may have hinted and was hoping she would go easy on Winston, but that’s not how these things are done. With a story this powerful and receiving so much attention, I am positive FSU officials did everything they could to insure Winston knew what to say and how to say it. If they didn’t, then shame on them. But I know the structure at FSU and am secure in the knowledge they had him ready. And they knew what was coming.

Cox’ questions were spot-on, save for one. The final one. Reporters in a situation such as this know they are likely to get only the standard prepared response, exactly what Winston gave her. He was obviously well-coached and knew what to say and what not to say. In his situation, that would be a lot of “we the team” and “thank you for your support” answers. Having asked all the pertinent questions, Cox wanted to dig one more time and see if she could elicit an emotional response and perhaps get him to break with the standard answers. It’s an old, familiar and well versed ploy in asking questions. The “gotcha” question. Did she have to ask it? No, but it was not out of line. Winston did the right thing in walking away with no further comment. She also did the right thing in knowing that was the end and not pressing any further. HAD she continued to press, that was the line. And she didn’t cross it.

In her shoes, any good reporter would have done the same thing. She handled herself very well, got the job done, and can stand tall.

The very troublesome after effect here is what was said about her after the interview. Here’s a series of tweets form Winston’s attorney, Tim Jansen. Read from the bottom up to keep in chronological order.

Tim Jansen Winston lawyer on COx

























Mr. Jansen is an attorney, and thus is want to deliver things in a breathless and hyperbolic manner. He’s biased, of course, and thus his tweets are disregarded for their bias.  Jansen also misses the point that this was his client’s first chance to say his thank you’s, put everything into his positive perspective, and come out shining. Which he did. Winston could have said something off color or arrogant, and he didn’t.

Jameis Winston should be thankful that if his attorney gave him any advice, he ignored it. Had he reacted as his lawyer, then Winston would have been branded a jerk and those fires of doubt would be blow torch sized.

What is both really disturbing and, sorry to say, very expected are the myriad of responses from certain members of the general public. most of whom are fans which is short for “fanatics”. Here are just 3 responses to her line of questioning from a NY Daily News story. As the responses require names and thus those names are public, they are presented here in the exact form as written. The original story and a complete list of responses, including these, can be found here at the NY Daily News original story.

Heather Cox react 1









Heather Cox react 2








Heather Cox react 3







It’s that third one from “Jose Reyes” I find most telling and disturbing. Like many tweets and comments I saw about this incident, he attacks her for being a female. Sexism at it’s worst. There is a neanderthal quotient out there who cannot stand to have a woman ask a male athlete, especially in football, hard hitting questions or certainly anything about a sexual nature. With nowhere to go, they attack her for being a woman first and a reporter second. Disturbing, but not unexpected. The rabid fan base for sports such as college football is chock full of men and women who see female reporters as nothing more than glorified cheerleaders. Let me be the first to say there are plenty of bad reporters out there from both sexes.

This is not about how she got where she is today. It’s about what she did, when she did it, and why she did it. In this instance, she did her job as it should have been done. She owes no one an apology, and ESPN should be commended for backing her up and not growing weak, seeking to appease the knuckleheads.

Her image and brand as a broadcaster is untarnished in this incident, certainly in the eyes of her peers. The public, certainly, is another matter. Those who support FSU football and can’t stand the thought of female reporters will hammer away at her reputation likely forever. That’s their problem. They are the ones who are wrong and looking more than a little ignorant here.

If you do your job to the best of your ability, stand your ground. When you’re in the right, as Cox is here, nothing can shake that firmament.