Why Is Jameis Winston Threatening Legal Action Against CNN?

jameis winston
Getty Image

Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston could be on the verge of a legal battle against CNN. According to a letter obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Winston is prepared to take the news network to court based on the content of the upcoming documentary The Hunting Ground. According to its website, the documentary “follows undergraduate rape survivors pursuing both their education and justice, despite ongoing harassment and the devastating toll on them and their families.”

Of course, this pertains to Winston and the allegation that he sexually assaulted a woman at Florida State. Winston never faced criminal charges and was cleared of breaking the school’s student conduct code due to a lack of evidence. Despite this, there is still a debate over whether Winston did anything wrong, namely because of the way the Tallahassee Police Department conducted its investigation into the former Heisman Trophy winner.

Winston is now in the NFL, but the allegations against him follow him everywhere. Part of the reason why is the upcoming documentary, which features a conversation with Winston’s accuser – it is the first time she has spoken publicly about the incident.

The Hunting Ground is set to debut on CNN on Nov. 22, and according to Winston’s lawyer, there will be a lawsuit if it hits the air. Here is the letter from John A. Boudet, which is addressed to David Vigilante and Jeff Zucker of CNN, via The Hollywood Reporter:

Here’s the most relevant bit from Boudet, from the last paragraph of his letter:

The fact that Mr. Winston is the only accused individual identified by name is telling.  CNN may have persuaded itself that Mr. Winston’sstatus as a public figure insulates your company from a libel judgement. If CNN decides to proceed with this broadcast, we will perhaps have the opportunity to test that legal proposition in a court of law.  However, one would hope that a network that claims and aspires to be “the most trusted name in news” would insist on journalistic standards – not to mention standards of common decency and fairness – somewhat higher than the absolute floor established by the law of defamation.

This certainly doesn’t seem like an empty threat, and Winston is prepared to take CNN to the courtroom if the documentary airs as scheduled. If you’d like to watch the film, head to CNN on Sunday night at 8 p.m. EST.

(via The Hollywood Reporter)