Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston apologized for using “poor word choice” when discussing his views on gender roles during a speech to elementary school students on Wednesday.
While speaking to third- through fifth-graders at Melrose Elementary in St. Petersburg, Winston asked boys to stand up and told the girls to stay seated.
“All my young boys, stand up. The ladies, sit down,” Winston said, according to a story in the Tampa Bay Times. “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 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.”
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The speech was supposed to be to inspire kids to be strong and follow their dreams, and it was going well until he separated the genders.
“Over the course of about 40 minutes, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston delivered a good message — a heartfelt, you-can-do-anything message to young kids who probably can’t imagine that even being close to true,” Tampa Bay Times sports columnist Tom Jones wrote.
But his suggestion that the girls should sit and be “silent, polite, gentle” drew criticism as the story made its way across the internet.
Winston attempted to clarify his remarks on Thursday.
“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,” Winston said, according to the newspaper. “During my talk, I used a poor word choice that may have overshadowed that positive message for some.”
Winston’s words drew extra attention because he was accused of sexually assaulting a female student while at Florida State University in 2012. He was not charged, but in December he settled a federal lawsuit filed by the woman and FSU paid her $950,000 as part of another lawsuit. Winston had been working to repair his image since joining the NFL.