Tampa Bay Buccaneer Jameis Winston landed himself in hot water after he used a ‘poor choice of words’ when visiting a Florida elementary school on Wednesday.
Winston was invited to Melrose Elementrary in St Petersburg to give third through fifth-grade students a motivational talk about achieving their dreams.
But the quarterback’s speech has been met with criticism after he made comments reinforcing gender stereotypes.
During his talk, the 23-year-old told students about his three rules of life: ‘God, school and being able to do anything they put their mind to.’
The pep talk turned controversial after he told all the young boys to stand up and for the girls to remain seated.
‘But all my boys, stand up. We strong, right? We strong! We strong, right?’ Winston said prompting cheers from the students.
‘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. One day, you’ll have a very, very deep voice.’
Winston added: ‘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. Scream it!’
The football star’s remarks have raised eyebrows, including those of school staff who were present during his talk.
Bonnie Volland, a speech language pathologist at Melrose, told the Tampa Bay Times that the beginning of Winston’s speech had sent out a positive message.
But Volland said a female student turned around as Winston was addressing the boys and said: ‘I’m strong too.’
The NFL athlete told the paper that he used ‘poor word choice’ while addressing the student as he was trying to interact with the male students.
‘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.
Winston added: ‘During my talk, I used a poor word choice that may have overshadowed that positive message for some.’
On ESPN, former General Manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mark Dominik defended the player saying Winston had good intentions.
‘I want to talk to Jameis real quick and say “Hey I know what we’re trying to do there, we get it,” but I’m still supporting this guy because I’ve seen all the great he’s done in the community since he’s been in Tampa,’ he said.
Dominik said the quarterback went to the school on his day off during his own time and has participated in events helping children in the past.
The football player has worked to recover his image after he was involved in a rape scandal in Florida State University in 2012.
Jameis was accused of raping Erica Kinsman, who has spoken out publicly about the case. Winston denied the allegations and said the two engaged in consensual sex.
He never charged for the crime, but settled in the Title IX lawsuit.
The quarterback was also involved in shoplifting incidents in 2014 and 2015. Burger King employees complained he was stealing soda from the fountain in July 2014.
Winston was also required to do 20 hours of community service and was given a citation for stealing crab legs from a Publix grocery store in Tallahassee.
He was the first overall pick during the 2015 NFL draft and signed a $25 million contract.