TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A Florida State social media campaign turned ugly Sunday when the university’s athletic department opened their Heisman-winning quarterback up to nationwide mockery.
The department attempted to engage fans on Twitter by soliciting questions to be used for a video on the team website.
The hashtag “#AskJameis” became a trending topic on twitter for a time Sunday - for all the wrong reasons.
The twitter feed was bombarded by accounts making fun of Winston and taking shots at the sophomore. Winston has been heavily criticized for several off-the-field incidents during his time at Florida State.
He was investigated in an alleged sexual assault of a female student last season, but was never charged. Winston was suspended from the baseball team for three games and ordered to perform 20 hours of community service after being cited for stealing $32 of crab legs from a local grocery store. There were also other minor run-ins with authorities, but no arrests.
The Twitterverse quickly went on the attack.
“I knew there was going to be some negativity going into it,” said Elliott Finebloom, FSU sports information director. “The goal of the Twitter Q&A was to continue to find ways to connect our fans and the players they support. That’s important to us … and social is a big way of doing it these days.
“That was the ultimate goal.”
The tweets covered a wide range from witty to malicious. Most were aimed at Winston, but others questioned why the university would risk this type of response.
One post read: “Do you know that you have to Buy One to get One Free at Publix?”
Another read: “Who gave you better protection last year - your offensive line or the TPD?”
TPD is shorthand for the Tallahassee Police Department.
“This was doomed from the beginning,” said Robert Stewart, director of the Ohio University school of journalism. “It’s basically a setup. Whoever thought this was a good idea had not done P.R. 101, which is to think about what all could go wrong. Everything about this was naive.”
Winston has grown accustomed to the chatter.
He was relentlessly heckled at away games during the baseball season. Hundreds of online memes were generated after the crab legs incident. Winston said during Florida State’s football media day on Sunday that he doesn’t focus on the negative things, but has become more guarded.