After Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was criticized for possibly being paid to sign nearly one thousand items for an autograph dealer, it turns out the validity of the items are in question because an authentication service concedes no one saw the player actually sign the items.
Doubt was cast on the autographs when the fist authentication service backed out of certifying the signatures because they were told they would not be allowed to witness the player actually signing the items. PSA/DNA, an autograph authentication service, backed out of the whole signature deal in February when their plans to witness the signing didn’t pan out.
After PSA/SNA dropped out of the deal, James Spence Authentication stepped in to vouch for the authenticity of the signatures.
Winston has come under criticism for signing the items over the suspicion that he was paid to supply the autographs–a violation of NCAA rules.
Early in October news broke that the Winston autographs were being looked into by FSU, but since then nothing has come of it. Winston has also stayed mum on the incident refusing to answer to speculation that he accepted cash for the signatures.
Suspicion that Winston received some compensation for the autographs was raised when customers who bought the autographs said that the signatures all came from a single signing session that the player performed in affiliation with an autograph dealer named Donnie Burkhalter.
ESPN’s Darren Rovell secured information from former Florida State running back and current Atlanta Falcons player Devonta Freeman, who had also contracted with Burkhalter. Freeman noted that he was asked by the dealer to approach Winston to convince the FSU quarterback to sign the items. Freeman reports that he did, indeed, contact Winston as requested.
Supposedly, Burkhalter arranged for Winston to come to a hotel room to sign the items. The dealer allegedly charged some people $40 to witness the event and had set up the authentication service to be on hand to validate the signatures.
But some say that Winston backed out of the hotel appearance and instead signed the items in private and gave them to Burkhalter later.
For his part, autograph dealer Burkhalter claims that he did not pay Winston for the autographs and that much of the claims being bandied about in the press are inaccurate but that he is sure Winston actually signed the items.
But, not everyone thinks the signatures are real. One autograph specialist told ESPN’s Rovell that he thinks some of the signatures Burkhalter is trying to sell aren’t authentic.
One, Rich Albersheim of Albersheim’s Historical Memorabilia and Autographs in Las Vegas, said it would be tough to determine authenticity because he wasn’t comfortable with the lack of verified Winston representations or exemplars in the marketplace.
The other, Ron Keurajian, a Baseball Hall of Fame autograph specialist, said that in his opinion, “These Winston autographs from the supposed signing are done by more than one hand. His authentic signature is very unstructured, which makes it harder to authenticate, but there are many here that actually are structured very well.”
The investigation of the signatures by school authorities appears to be stalled. No information on the incident has come out of the school for weeks but head football coach Jimbo Fisher has insisted that Winston did not get paid to sign the items.
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