Big shocking news out of Tallahassee, Florida – another Florida State quarterback has misbehaved. This time it’s De’Andre Johnson, a redshirt freshman from Jacksonville. Johnson, the 2014 Mr. Football award winner in the state of Florida, was dismissed from the Seminoles squad hours after a video was released by the State’s Attorney showing him punching a girl in the face at a Tallahassee bar on June 24. The shocking part? That head coach Jimbo Fisher actually held a player accountable for his actions and issued a punishment, instead of his usual modus operandi of coddling and enabling. Of course this player wasn’t a Heisman Trophy winner and National Champion – and the incident was caught on video. So maybe Jimbo’s hands were tied on this one.
Johnson’s attorney, Jose Baez, told NBC News that his 19-year-old client only punched the girl after she spewed racial comments at him after he accidentally bumped her while they were waiting to order at the bar, and has entered a plea of “not guilty” to the misdemeanor battery charges. My first thought to the situation when I initially heard about it was why was a 19-year-old ordering drinks at a bar? But I’ll leave that for the oh-so competent Tallahassee police department and justice system to weed through, or sweep under the rug as the case seemed to be with Jameis Winston was on several occasions. But back to this current incident…..
Baez said Johnson tried to “de-escalate the situation,” but the woman “kneed him in the groin area” and “took another swing before he retaliated.” Did it look to me like the girl was intoxicated? Yes it did. Did it look to me like she was the aggressor and took a feeble swing at Johnson first? Yes it did. But did it look like he tried to “de-escalate” the situation in any sense at all? No it didn’t. But hey De’Andre, bottom line – how about just walking away away from a bad situation? You’re a big strong football player, she’s a woman. Surely you’ve heard about Ray Rice? Greg Hardy? Ray McDonald?
Baez told NBC that his client “makes no excuses for what happened,” and called Johnson’s dismissal from the football team “unfortunate.” “All he wants to do is learn from this experience and move on and get an education,’ said Baez. “We certainly don’t want him to pay for the rest of his life for an incident that occurred in a bar.”
So Mr. Baez let me get this straight. It took your client getting arrested, charged with battery and dismissed from the football team to learn that you shouldn’t punch a woman in the face? And as far as him getting an education….c’mon now, we both know that’s not why he’s at FSU, don’t we? Or do we have to play the “student-athlete” game again and pretend that Johnson is religiously attending classes and learning all he can about science, math and world history? (An interesting side note, if the name of Johnson’s attorney rings a bell, he’s the same Jose Baez who successfully defended Casey Anthony in her first-degree murder trial for the 2008 death of her 2-year-old daughter in 2011)
The video of the incident, which was captured by security cameras in the bar near the FSU campus, shows Johnson trying to push past the woman, who was waiting to order at the bar. The woman turned toward Johnson, who grabbed her right arm after she raised it. The woman then tried to swing at Johnson with her left hand, and he punched her in the face with a straight right. According to the Tallahassee Police, the woman, an FSU student, suffered bruising near her left eye, swelling of the left cheek and upper lip, and a small cut near the bridge of her nose. The State’s Attorney said the woman still had a black eye when they met with her last week.
The bar’s surveillance video, attached below, clearly shows the incident but without audio to hear the verbal exchange between the two. But the woman was obviously hurt by the punch and looks to be bleeding, although the bartenders seem to be disinterested at best when alerted to her situation.
Florida State president John Thrasher said in a released statement, “While it is always important to adhere to due process, having now seen the physical altercation captured on video, there is no question in my mind that Coach Fisher made the correct decisions. I expect all students at Florida State University, including student-athletes, to adhere to the highest level of conduct. I have no tolerance for the kind of behavior exhibited in this case. Florida State University was forged from an outstanding college for women and has a long tradition of being a caring community that demands students be treated with dignity and respect.”
While I “respect” the sentiment expressed in Thrasher’s statement, it would have made a stronger impression on me if the Jameis Winston sexual assault accusations weren’t still so fresh in my memory bank. And you may call me a skeptic, but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if this incident hadn’t been caught on video, Jimbo Fisher and the “powers that be” at Florida State would have managed to spin the situation into a trivial occurrence…..just like they’ve done before. But sorry FSU – this time, in this current climate of domestic abuse sensitivity, you couldn’t protect your QB and make it all go away. He himself had to go away instead.