Giving back to the community is always something NFL players should be proud of, but Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston may find himself taking a lot of heat over a portion of a speech he gave to a group of elementary school students this week.
Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times was in attendance Wednesday when Winston spoke for 40 minutes to third-, fourth- and fifth-graders from Melrose Elementary in St. Petersburg, Fla. Things started out great, with Winston encouraging the children to be positive, work hard in school and chase their dreams. But when Winston decided to give a short pep talk to only the young boys in the room, his message quickly became cringe-worthy.
Winston noticed that a few male students in the room looked bored, so he tried to capture their attention.
“All my young boys, stand up. The ladies, sit down,” he said. “But all my boys, stand up. We strong, right? We strong! We strong, right? All my boys, tell me one time: I can do anything I put my mind to. Now a lot of boys aren’t supposed to be soft-spoken. You know what I’m saying? One day y’all are going to have a very deep voice like this (in deep voice). One day, you’ll have a very, very deep voice.
“But the ladies, they’re supposed to be silent, polite, gentle. My men, my men (are) supposed to be strong. I want y’all to tell me what the third rule of life is: I can do anything I put my mind to. Scream it!”
While it almost certainly was not his intention, Winston came off as incredibly sexist. One teacher, speech language pathologist Bonnie Volland, described how one of the young female students reacted.
“One of the girls turned around and looked at me and said, ‘I’m strong too,'” Volland revealed.
Jones said several adults in the room were “bothered” by what Winston said, though they chose not to comment on it publicly. Winston later admitted that he should have chosen his words more carefully.
“I was making an effort to interact with a young male in the audience who didn’t seem to be paying attention, and I didn’t want to single him out so I asked all the boys to stand up,” he said. “During my talk, I used a poor word choice that may have overshadowed that positive message for some.”
As Jones alluded to, Winston’s own history with a sexual assault scandal should have raised his awareness of stereotypes. Telling a room full of children that ladies are “supposed to be silent” is a troubling message. At the very least, the 23-year-old Winston has a lot to learn about public speaking.
You can see the video of Winston’s pep talk below: