Greg Cote

Greg Cote: It’s fair to boo Winston, Mayweather — but no boycott needed

This is a Feb. 21, 2015, file photo showing Jameis Winston at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis.
This is a Feb. 21, 2015, file photo showing Jameis Winston at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis. AP

Your moral code is egregiously out of whack, apparently, if you watch any of this week’s NFL Draft. Furthermore, you condone domestic violence if you have any interest in the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao fight. Yes, you are a bad person who should be filled with shame if you do anything but shake an angry fist at either event.

Right, Keith Olbermann?

America’s Sports Moralist and league leader in self-righteousness, Olbermann was pontificating from his highest horse on his eponymous ESPN2 show the other day, demanding as much as inviting listeners to “draw a line” and join him in a boycott of the upcoming football draft and Las Vegas boxing match.


Because Jameis Winston, the likely overall No. 1 pick in Thursday night’s draft, and Mayweather, the undefeated favorite in Saturday night’s fight, do not live up to Olbermann’s moral code. Both have done dumb, bad things. He condemns them; so must we all. And he extrapolates that condemning or rooting against them is not enough — we must boycott whatever either is involved in.

“I will not promote, watch nor report” on either event, he declared, as if unaware that an ESPN talking head calling for a national boycott calls far more attention to said events than anything else he might have done, such as simply privately ignore them instead of making a public cause of them.

Good news here, though. I am offering you absolution from the eternal damnation that Olbermann implied you faced by watching either event. Enjoy them guilt-free, heathens! I am here to tell you that being interested in the NFL Draft shall not imply you are a misogynist or that you condone the purloining of crab legs. Just as being interested in the big fight very likely does not mean you have been guilty of or generally support violence against women.

See, as adults, we are able to draw a line of distinction between the two.

We can abhor Ray Rice hitting his girlfriend without making the leap from that to boycotting the NFL. We can condemn Alex Rodriguez using steroids without therefore boycotting and abandoning baseball altogether.

We understand that sports and the reasons why we love them are transcendent and bigger than the relative few wrongdoers who are involved at any one time. We understand this because we are adults.

I get the animus against Mayweather, who has been involved multiple times in domestic violence issues — awful under all circumstances, but somehow worse yet when the hitting hands are those of a prizefighter. He served two months in jail for this as recently as 2012.

I respect anyone unwilling to spend the $90 to $100 pay-per-view charge because they don’t want to contribute to lining Mayweather’s already amply lined pockets.

I also respect anyone who would count that expenditure a bargain if watching meant seeing Mayweather’s first loss and cheering as he got hit hard and often as symbolic payback for the times he cowardly raised fists to women.

What I don’t respect is anyone on a self-constructed pedestal instructing me that my moral compass is off, my principles are askew and I don’t stand up for women as tall as they do because I’m not joining some silly boycott.

By the way, you are free to hope Mayweather gets knocked out cold and you are free to boo Winston and hope he’s a draft bust and neither requires the validation of a boycott. Ain’t America great!?

The idea of turning your back on the NFL Draft is even dumber than the fight boycott, of course.

If fans of the No. 1-drafting Tampa Bay Buccaneers want to protest their team’s selection of Winston, fine. But fans nationwide of 32 teams in a 256-player draft are supposed to not watch because a player who’s made too many headlines for the wrong reasons happens to be grand-marshaling this year’s parade? Please.

I might also remind that, although Winston was investigated for sexual assault and is the subject of a related ongoing civil suit, he never was criminally charged, let alone convicted. This is no small distinction.

Isn’t it funny how we all believe so strongly in the American pillar of “innocent until proven guilty” except when it is inconvenient or uncomfortable because we happen to think the legal system got it wrong this time?

Or because we’re trying to make the Quixotic case for a boycott?

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