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Hey, Bucs, there’s no more benefit of the doubt with Jameis Winston

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter, left, speaks with quarterback Jameis Winston during last season's home game vs. Atlanta.  (MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter, left, speaks with quarterback Jameis Winston during last season's home game vs. Atlanta. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Published Jun. 28, 2018|Updated Jun. 29, 2018

The National Football League could not have been clearer or more direct. It accused Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston of sexually assaulting an Uber driver in March 2016.

No ambiguity. No innuendos. No carefully worded, read-between-the-lines insinuations.

The NFL specifically said, in a statement announcing Winston's three-game suspension Thursday, that it found his accuser to be "credible." It said Winston touched her in a "sexual manner without her consent."

That's the exact definition of sexual assault.

So I'll repeat what I wrote last week: the Bucs should cut ties with Winston immediately.

No conversations. No meetings. Just do it.

What else do the Bucs need to hear? What else does Winston need to do? What line does he need to cross?

How can you possibly employ this man any longer?

How can you put his photo on the side of your stadium? How can you sell his jersey? How can you send him out to talk to kids?

This is no longer about Winston. He's a bad guy, and this latest in a long series of bad decisions confirms that.

This is now about the Glazers. This is their team. This is their reputation and legacy we're talking about.

Winston wouldn't even be here to begin with if the Glazers hadn't signed off on drafting him in 2015, and he won't be here next season if they don't want him to be.

If he stays here, it's because the Glazers say it's okay. Okay that he's the Bucs' leader on the field. Okay that he's the face of the franchise off it.

If you don't cut him now, what kind of message are you sending to fans?

Here's what you're saying: that you tolerate this kind of garbage. That you're willing to overlook disgusting behavior by a player as long as he can throw a football really well. That winning football games is more important than anything else.

And if that's what the Glazers think, shame on them.

Even if this team wins, how can you feel good about it knowing all the stuff Winston has done and what kind of person he seems to be?

Winston's pattern of horrible behavior has been an embarrassment to the franchise, and worse, a menace to society.

I don't want to hear about all the good he does in the community. That's not a get-out-of-trouble-for-free card. That doesn't allow you do whatever you want. Just because you do charity work during the day doesn't give you an excuse to go out and put your hands wherever you like at night.

I don't want to hear how Winston is just a kid making immature mistakes. I don't remember Gerald McCoy or Mike Evans or Steven Stamkos or Chris Archer or Victor Hedman doing this kind of junk when they were so-called kids.

I don't want to hear about second chances. Winston was out of those a long time ago. At some point, there needs to be real consequences beyond slaps on the wrist for Winston's actions. Until there is, he'll keep acting like an idiot.

And I have little use for his statement Thursday, in which he said he's going to hold himself to a higher standard and he's going to put this behind him and work hard to be a positive influence in the community.

Why should we believe him now?

This is the same guy who, when he came out of college, told us to judge him on his behavior moving forward. This is the same guy who, when news of the Uber accusation broke in November, put out a statement that essentially called the accuser a liar. Over and over in a statement he called the allegation false.

So what he says now carries no weight. Winston has lost the benefit of the doubt. There have just been too many ugly moments, too many embarrassing incidents, too many decisions that range from sleazy to downright disgusting.

Winston's words are constantly betrayed by his actions, making pretty much everything he says meaningless.

In his statement Thursday, Winston said he has given up alcohol. Here's hoping he does whatever is necessary to turn his life around.

But that doesn't excuse any of the junk he has done.

Enough already.

This could be an incredibly dark moment for the Bucs franchise, but only if the Glazers allow it to be. It's time they send a message that there are more important things in life that football. It's time to stop enabling a guy who has proven time and again that he doesn't know how to act.

Winston has already shown what kind of person he is.

Now we're going to find out what kind of people the Glazers are.