ESPN’s College GameDay came to Tallahassee. And Tallahassee told College GameDay to go back to Bristol.
Before Florida State beat Notre Dame, Florida State’s fans beat up ESPN. Seminoles fans, citing bias in ESPN’s coverage of embattled quarterback Jameis Winston and boosterism of the Southeastern Conference, invaded the shots of ESPN cameramen Saturday morning with satirical, angry, and obscene signs ridiculing the network.
ESPN, in the midst of a long-term $2 billion deal with the SEC, has aggressively reported on the travails of Heisman Trophy-winner Jameis Winston, including an article last week by Darren Rovell suggesting the quarterback signs his autograph for money, earlier wall-to-wall coverage of the red-shirt sophomore’s sophomoric campus announcement of a vulgar catchphrase, and continuing stories on a rape allegation prosecutors declined to prosecute last December.
The signs mocked ESPN by blaming Winston for Ebola, Bill Buckner missing the ground ball in 1986, and Christmas sales in October. The party-protest employed witch symbolism to convey the notion of a network witchhunt against FSU’s star player. Fans of the ACC’s Seminoles repeatedly, and in vulgar fashion, depicted ESPN as a servant of the SEC, whose Mississippi State jumped over Florida State last week into the number-one spot in the rankings despite a Seminole victory. A few fans held up four-letter words to slam the four-letter network.
— SB✯Nation CFB (@SBNationCFB) October 18, 2014
— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) October 18, 2014
— Laura (@frawls6) October 18, 2014
Early leader for favorite GameDay sign in Tallahassee pic.twitter.com/6OkMrn16Wv
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) October 18, 2014
— Brandon Lawrence (@BrandonLawrence) October 18, 2014
“Jeff Driskel paid me for his autograph” pic.twitter.com/uU48VTzlI2
— Busted Coverage (@bustedcoverage) October 18, 2014
Despite the controversy covered by ESPN and other outlets, Jameis Winston played brilliantly, particularly in the second half of the 31-27 victory. “Let’s enjoy this one right here,” Winston yelled in the aftermath of the nailbiter win. Head coach Jimbo Fisher instructed his quarterback to be “humble” after the emotional victory. Florida State fans, at least in their interactions with ESPN, aimed at humiliation rather than humility.