Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times posted a simple, smart poll this week: What will Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans do with their Jameis Winston jerseys?
That’s getting to a real place with fans. To say you will or won’t cheer for Winston is probably nebulous. A Bucs fan could say he or she won’t root for Winston, but in Week 6 against the Atlanta Falcons with the game on the line, that becomes a tougher thing to manage. But the jersey question is applicable. If you have a Winston jersey that probably cost $100 to $300, are you going to wear it or not? There’s not a ton of gray area there, and a good way to frame the debate. It becomes more complicated now that Winston has been suspended three games and apologized (though vaguely) for an incident in which he was suspended for groping an Uber driver? It’s not the first troubling accusation against Winston, of course.
Auman’s poll was enlightening. It found that 40 percent of fans will still wear Winston’s jersey “with pride.” That means a pretty overwhelming majority either won’t wear it, or don’t know what to do.
Many fans won’t wear Winston’s jersey again
Auman’s poll for the Tampa Bay Times said 34 percent of fans who have a Winston jersey voted they “can’t wear it anymore.” Then 26 percent voted they “were not sure what do to.”
A Twitter poll is far from scientific, and answering that you’ll never wear a Winston jersey again in early July doesn’t mean you won’t dust it off in October. But I think it’s telling. The Bucs have a quarterback who is clearly the biggest star in the franchise, and a third of the fans have decided they can’t wear his jersey again. Well over half of the fans who answered couldn’t say definitively they want to wear the star quarterback’s jersey.
That’s a problem for the Buccaneers, to say the least.
Can Winston repair his image with Bucs fans?
Winston could turn around his image, and goodness knows his handlers will try. For one example, I’m sure there are plenty of Ben Roethlisberger jerseys at Steelers games, and his early career was marked with some troubling stories.
Right now a lot of Bucs fans are fed up with Winston. A 75-year-old fan named Bil Sidwell, who told the Tampa Bay Times he signed up to be a a season-ticket holder even before the Bucs’ first season in 1976, said he and another friend burned their Winston jerseys.
“Good riddance,” Sidwell wrote to the Tampa Bay Times. “We should have drafted the other kid.”
The “other kid” would be Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, who went No. 2 overall in the 2015 draft behind Winston.
Last week Auman wrote about a lifelong Buccaneers fan, John Schuzer, who boxed up his Winston jersey and sent it back to the team. ‘
In good conscience I can no longer wear my @Jaboowins @Buccaneers jersey. I’m sending it back for you to donate or whatever you want. As a season ticket holder since 2007, I’m embarrassed & disappointed by this scandal. Go Bucs in 2018! @gregauman @TampaBayTre pic.twitter.com/K6H7SpgD8k
— John Schuzer (@JSchuzer) June 29, 2018
A lot of Buccaneers fans are angry
There are angry reactions throughout Auman’s story this week, from the fans who say they won’t be part of the Buccaneers fan base anymore to those who say they don’t know what to tell their children who are Winston fans.
Will any of that play into the Buccaneers’ eventual decision on whether to give Winston a second contract? Probably not, though ownership will hear a lot from the fans who are upset and will have to keep that in mind.
It will be an uncomfortable time for the Buccaneers with Winston. It’ll be an uncomfortable time for the fan base too, and we’ll see how many Winston jerseys are spotted at Raymond James Stadium this season.
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