Since arriving in the NFL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston has largely stayed out of the public spotlight after a rocky (to say it least) off-field career at Florida State.
That period of quiet ended on Friday, when a report from Buzzfeed was released, detailing Winston’s alleged sexual assault of an Uber driver in 2016, taking place in Scottsdale, Arizona.
According to Buzzfeed, the NFL is investigating the incident, during which Winston allegedly groped an Uber driver.
A letter, viewed by BuzzFeed News, was sent from the NFL’s special counsel for investigations, Lisa Friel, to the Uber driver on Thursday. “The League has been informed that you may have been the victim of such a violation perpetrated by Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Jameis Winston. The league takes allegations of this nature very seriously and has opened an investigation into this matter,” the letter read.
The Uber driver, named only as Kate, claims that she picked Winston up at roughly 2 AM, some friends put him in the front seat next to her, and she was groped by Winston after he requested to stop for food.
The men placed Winston in the front passenger seat — Kate said he was the only passenger. “I started driving, and right away, Jameis behaved poorly” by shouting, in part, homophobic slurs at pedestrians, said Kate, who did not want to be identified for fear of negative attention and potential backlash from football fans. He then asked to stop for food.
Waiting in line at the drive-thru of Los Betos Mexican Food, “he reached over and he just grabbed my crotch,” Kate said, alleging that Winston held his hand there for three to five seconds and removed it only after she looked up in shock and said, “What’s up with that?”
A member of Winston’s camp denied the allegations.
Winston’s representative, Russ Spielman, issued a statement denying the allegations: “We categorically deny this allegation. It is our understanding the uber driver was unable to identify the specific individual who allegedly touched this driver inappropriately. The only reason his name is being dragged in to this is that his uber account was used to call the ride.”
When asked about the NFL’s letter, he said, “I don’t have a comment on that, what you’re hearing is the first time I’m hearing about that.”
Kate also contacted Uber and her friends soon after the incident, discussing what happened and identifying Winston.
Uber eventually banned Winston from their service.
Eventually, the rider was banned from Uber. “The behavior the driver reported is disturbing and wrong. The rider was permanently removed from the app shortly after we learned of the incident,” a spokesperson for Uber told BuzzFeed News in a statement.
Based on the ride receipt, trip identification number, and name —Jameis Winston — that Kate gave BuzzFeed News, Uber said that the account holder that evening was removed from the ride-sharing service.
This isn’t a good look for Winston, and I’m curious as to whether or not the NFL’s investigation leads to any punishment for him, or if the incident is merely swept under the rug.