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Should ESPN’s Heather Cox Apologize For Her Post-Game Jameis Winston Interview?
On Saturday, Florida State dismantled Duke in the ACC Championship, cementing their status as the country’s best team and setting the stage for a BCS title fight with Auburn. It was a big moment for Jameis Winston, the freshman quarterback who is both a Heisman Trophy favorite and, it must be noted, a recent beneficiary of the American legal system.
(Winston was accused of sexual battery by an unnamed Florida State student, but last week prosecutors decided not to press charges in a very creepy press conference. Winston wasn’t just not guilty — his innocence should never have been questioned, say his legal team.)
Keeping the gravity of the moment in mind, watch Heather Cox’s post-game interview with Winston, if you haven’t seen it already. After starting with a typical cupcake, Cox goes in, with four straight investigation-related questions:
Winston’s lawyer, Tim Jansen, was not pleased with the way the interview went:
Heather Cox was classless and unprofessional after the game. Trying to ambush a 19 year after the game with a flury of inappropriate ques
— Tim Jansen (@rtimjansen) December 8, 2013
@heatherespn when u realize ur actions were improper u can make amends. Please write me a note to Jameis and his family to apologize.
— Tim Jansen (@rtimjansen) December 8, 2013
FSU officials told her certain areas were off limits during the sideline interview. She agreed and then violated those terms.
— Tim Jansen (@rtimjansen) December 9, 2013
Cox, for her part, defended her actions on Monday and said that she was just doing her job as a journalist. From SI.com:
“I certainly knew if we talked to him I needed to ask questions about the [alleged sexual assault] investigation,” Cox said. “I had thought through the way I wanted to handle it and presented the questions to our team. We all decided it was the correct way to handle it. It was not an issue of me going rogue and deciding last-minute that I would ambush him.
Cox said that ESPN asked and received permission from FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher and two football sports information directors regarding asking Winston questions about the investigation. Cox did not forward her questions, nor did FSU officials ask for any questions, according to Cox.
“They were fully aware that I was going to ask about the investigation,” Cox said. “I was never once asked not to ask about the investigation and if I had been asked not to ask those questions, I would have declined to do the interview because I would not have been able to do my job. I think a lot of people out there think I ambushed him (Winston) and went against Coach Fisher and the Florida State PR group, and that is not at all the case. They were fully aware of my intent to ask questions about the investigation.”
Was either side “wrong” for what they did? Subjectively speaking, probably not. Winston leaving Cox in the lurch wasn’t the best look, but he’s a 19-year-old kid who just finished an incredible season — he probably was hoping to answer a few questions with the typical athlete vagueness and leave it at that.
Meanwhile, it’s nice to see a reporter actually going after their interview subject (unlike, say, Jay Glazer’s piece with Richie Incognito). But is five minutes after the ACC Championship really the place for such journalism? Nobody expects anything from post-game interviews except for a guy saying “Both teams played hard,” and other platitudes. It may have been Cox’s persistence that wore Winston down more than anything — four straight questions about an investigation that ultimately went in Winston’s favor seem like overkill.
Plus, I already have the answer to Cox’s last question: He likely didn’t speak during the process because his legal team and family told him not to. There — that was easy.
Should Cox apologize to Winston for putting him on the spot? Or should Jensen get off his high horse? What do you think?
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