As bad as things have been for Winston and the Bucs, they might get worse now that he’s accused of groping a female Uber driver.
The NFL is currently investigating the 23-year-old over an alleged incident that happened in March 2016. ESPN reports that NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the “allegation was shared with the NFL and we have reached out to Uber to request any information they may have.”
NFL executive Lisa Friel interviewed the Uber driver to get more information on this matter.
“The League has been informed that you may have been the victim of such a violation perpetrated by Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Jameis Winston,” Friel wrote. “The league takes allegations of this nature very seriously and has opened an investigation into this matter.”
Winston Denies Allegations
Jameis Winston claims that the “accusation is false” through a statement. Here’s what he had to say:
“A news organization has published a story about me regarding an alleged incident involving a female Uber driver from approximately two years ago. The story falsely accuses me of making inappropriate contact with this driver. I believe the driver was confused as to the number of passengers in the car and who was sitting next to her.
“The accusation is false, and given the nature of the allegation and increased awareness and consideration of these types of matters, I am addressing this false report immediately. At the time of the alleged incident, I denied the allegations to Uber, yet they still decided to suspend my account.
“I am supportive of the national movement to raise awareness and develop better responses to the concerns of parties who find themselves in these types of situations, but this accusation is false. While I am certain that I did not make any inappropriate contact, I don’t want to engage in a battle with the driver and I regret if my demeanor or presence made her uncomfortable in any way.”
Uber Driver Explains Alleged Incident
The Uber driver declined to give her name. But she did speak with BuzzFeed News about the alleged incident.
She said that she picked Winston up around 2am on March 13, 2016 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Winston then asked her to go through a fast-food drive-thru on the way to the destination.
The driver said that Winston reached over and grabbed her crotch for 3-5 seconds in the drive-thru. He took his hand off after she verbally objected.
She reported the incident to Uber afterward. And an Uber spokesman told ESPN that the “behavior the driver reported is disturbing and wrong. The rider was permanently removed from the app shortly after we learned of the incident.”
“We categorically deny this allegation,” Spielman told his client. “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 into this is that his Uber account was used to call the ride.”
No Police Report Filed
A spokesperson for the Scottsdale Police Department said that the driver “did not call us or file a report with us.” The Phoenix Police Department was also asked about the incident and said that they weren’t contacted by the Uber driver.
The Buccaneers organization is investigating the incident. Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter said that he “just found out” about the story.
“We take these matters seriously and are fully supportive of the investigation that is being conducted by the NFL,” read a team statement.
Second Time Winston Has Dealt with Sexual Assault Allegations
The Tallahassee police investigated the matter despite charges never being filed. And they ultimately closed the case in December 2013, right before Winston won the Heisman Trophy.
The accuser, Erica Kinsman, filed a civil suit against Winston in 2015. He countersued, and the matter was settled out of court in 2016.
Kinsman sued Florida State in January 2016 over how they handled the complaint. The school paid her $950,000 and began holding five years’ worth of sexual assault awareness programs. In exchange, the university didn’t have to admit wrongdoing in the case.
Will Winston be Suspended by the NFL Over the Uber Driver Complaint?
Winston isn’t currently practicing due to his shoulder injury (AC joint). This leaves Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starter for yet another week.
Fitzpatrick was uninspiring in his first start against the New York Jets last week, completing 17-of-34 passes for 187 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. But he did enough to help get a 15-10 win over New York.
The 34-year-old veteran thinks that Tampa Bay has the talent to go on a long winning streak. But this will be hard if Winston continues to sit since he’s the franchise quarterback. And it’ll only be tougher if he gets suspended.
It’s difficult to say whether or not Winston will ultimately be suspended. After all, the NFL just started investigating the matter. But it’s certainly not unfathomable when considering that the league suspended Ezekiel Elliott for a domestic violence incident when the Columbus Police Department didn’t find any substantial evidence.
Winston hasn’t been a lot better than Fitzpatrick this season. But part of this is because he tried playing three games with his AC joint problem. That said, downgrade Tampa Bay’s chances of winning if Winston gets suspended and/or continues to remain sidelined with an injury.