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Lifelong Bucs fan mails his Winston jersey to team: ‘I won’t wear it’

Illinois man, a fan since 1976 and season-ticket member since 2007, says he loves Bucs but can't support Winston.
Bucs fan John Schuzer of Wheaton, Ill., decided to mail his Jameis Winston jersey back to the team after reading about Winston's three-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. (JOHN SCHUZER/TWITTER)
Published Jun. 30, 2018
Updated Jul. 2, 2018

John Schuzer has been a Bucs fan since their first season in 1976, when he decided he liked the new team from Florida much better than his father's Cardinals or his grandfather's Lions.

Despite living in Illinois, he's had season tickets since 2007, and when the 2015 NFL draft was held in Chicago, the Bucs gave him VIP passes so he could be there in person when quarterback Jameis Winston's name was announced as the No. 1 overall pick.

He grew to like Winston enough that two years ago, in Tampa to see a Thursday night game, he bought a red No. 3 Winston jersey at Raymond James Stadium, proudly rotating that with a No. 93  Gerald McCoy jersey.

But when news came out Thursday that Winston was being suspended three games for violating the league's personal conduct policy, when he read Winston's apology, he decided it was enough. He neatly folded up the jersey, took it to the post office and spent $24 to mail it, Priority Mail Express, to the team at 1 Buccaneer Place.

"In good conscience I can no longer wear my @Jaboowins @Buccaneers jersey," he wrote on Twitter. "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!"

Schuzer, 50, said he had long defended Winston, even since November, when a female Uber driver in Arizona accused him of putting his hand on her crotch during a 2 a.m. ride in March 2016.

"I was actually quite an advocate, saying if there's no evidence, I really didn't support how the NFL suspends people without tangible evidence or proof," said Schuzer, who works in research with CAT scan and X-ray machines. "I was in his corner, supporting him. Without evidence, how can you suspend someone?"

But on Thursday, he read the statement from the NFL, finding the driver's account "consistent and credible" and determining that Winston had touched her "in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent." Then he read Winston's apology: "I'm sorry to the Uber driver for the position I put you in."

"That was the breaking point. I just didn't find it sincere," Schuzer said. "He was just covering his own (butt). To me, I didn't think there was anything tangible in there in terms of owning up to what he did. It was the final straw. You create more chaos by giving a half-hearted apology than by giving none at all."

Schuzer said he had supported the Bucs drafting Winston in 2015, preferring him to Oregon's Marcus Mariota, who would be taken No. 2 by the Titans.

This was a careful, measured response by Schuzer. "(I) didn't want to burn it on video or cut it up," he wrote on Twitter, happy to see the jersey go to a Bucs fan who is more comfortable putting Winston's name on his or her back. "They can donate it or whatever they want. But I won't wear it anymore."

To be clear, Schuzer says this doesn't make him any less of a Bucs fan. He's keeping his season tickets, hopes to get to as many games as he can, and he'll pay a steep price to see the Bucs play the Bears in Chicago as well.

"I'm going to support this team 110 percent," he said. "But it's going to be hard for me to cheer him, to have that on my shoulders. It doesn't feel right. If that was my sister or mother in that car, it's just a bad message we're sending."

If you're a Bucs fan and own a Winston jersey, does his suspension change anything for you? Will you still wear the jersey with pride, or pick another player to support? We'd like to hear more from Bucs fans and how they feel. Send us an email at gauman@tampabay.com.

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