Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston says he made a “poor word choice” on Wednesday during a speech at an elementary school that came off as sexist.
Speaking to third- through fifth-graders at Melrose Elementary in St. Petersburg, Florida, Winston called on the male students to stand up while directing the female students to remain seated, reports ESPN.com.
“All my young boys, stand up. The ladies, sit down,” Winston said, according to 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 [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.”
Winston later explained that he was trying to motivate a specific student in the crowd without calling him out.
“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 has worked to rehabilitate his image since his days at Florida State, when he was accused of sexually assaulting a female student in 2012. He was never charged with a crime in the incident, and the university disciplinary committee found insufficient evidence to charge him with violating the student code. But in December, Winston settled a federal lawsuit filed by the woman.
Florida State also agreed to pay the woman $950,000 in January 2016 to settle a lawsuit she filed against the school for its handling of her Title IX complaint.