Advocate for sexual assault survivors: Why is Louisiana cheering on Jameis Winston?

Saints quarterback has faced sexual assault allegations from two women

By: - September 22, 2021 6:00 am
Jamies Winston

Jameis Winston (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

The woman who runs Louisiana’s largest service organization for sexual misconduct survivors is questioning why Louisiana residents feel comfortable cheering on New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston, who has been publicly accused of sexual assault by two women. 

“We need to examine the cultural norms which allow someone like Jameis Winston to work for an NFL team that represents Louisiana,” said Racheal Hebert in an interview Tuesday.

Hebert is the founder and chief executive officer of Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response (STAR), which provides services to sexual assault survivors in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Alexandria. She brought up Winston while speaking to the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday. 

“I understand — rightly  so — our community’s outrage at LSU,” Hebert said Monday during her public remarks. “But my question to our community is why do we allow these things to happen where we know we have star football players that have histories like this?” 

Winston was publicly accused of sexual assault in two separate incidents years before the Saints first signed him to their roster in 2020, and there’s been a push to portray him as having “matured” since he joined the New Orleans franchise. 

But while playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Winston was suspended for the first three games of the NFL season — including one against the Saints — in 2018 after an NFL investigation found an Uber driver’s sexual assault allegations against Winston were credible.



The Uber driver, a woman, said Winston had grabbed her crotch while they were in a drive-thru for a fast food restaurant in 2016. She did not tell law enforcement about the alleged groping, but she reported it to Uber and flagged Winston as a problematic customer for the ride-share service, according to ESPN

The second woman, Erica Kinsman, alleged that Winston raped her in 2012 when they were both students at Florida State University. She reported the alleged rape to the police, but Winston was never charged with a crime or disciplined by the university. He has denied the rape allegations and said he had consensual sex with Kinsman. 

An investigation by The New York Times revealed that law enforcement and Florida State did little to investigate the incident, which could have made it difficult to mount a case against him. Florida State also ended up paying Kinsman almost a $1 million to settle her lawsuit alleging the school hadn’t handled her complaint of rape against Winston properly.

Outside of sexual assault, Winston was also accused of stealing  and shouting a sexually inappropriate phrase in a common area at Florida State University while he was a student. 

State officials and the public have brought the hammer down on LSU following its sexual assault and domestic violence scandal, Hebert said. State legislators passed new laws and put more mandates on its higher education institutions as a result of LSU’s failures. LSU is paying STAR, Hebert’s organization, to revamp its training for sexual assault prevention and to rework its policies and procedures for handing sexual violence.

But Hebert said there’s a disconnect between how people feel about LSU at the moment, and the larger Louisiana culture.

“[State lawmakers] raked LSU over the coals, but why isn’t our larger community collectively examining why we are so happy that Jameis Winston is the new quarterback for the Saints?” Hebert said in an interview. “There’s an inconsistent message about what culture change they are looking for.” 

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Winston is a frequent topic of discussion among people who work on sexual assault issues in Louisiana, Hebert said. Many anti-sexual violence organizations recommend “The Hunting Ground,” a controversial documentary about sexual assault on college campuses. Kinsman appears in the film, talking about her alleged rape by Winston, so advocates are familiar with her allegations.

“If we are going to throw stones, throw them everywhere. We can’t just throw them at LSU,” Hebert said.

The Saints could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator and producer of the Louisiana Illuminator podcast. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press. Julie covered state government and politics for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune for six years. She’s also covered government and politics in Missouri, Virginia and Washington D.C. Julie is a proud D.C. native and Washington Capitals hockey fan. She and her partner, Jed, live in Baton Rouge. She has two stepchildren, Quinn and Steven.

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