An Uber driver alleges that she was groped by Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston in March of last year, Talal Ansari of BuzzFeed News has learned. In a letter to the alleged victim, lead NFL investigator Lisa Friel indicated that an investigation is underway.
“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 letter reads. “The league takes allegations of this nature very seriously and has opened an investigation into this matter.”
The female driver, identified only as Kate, says that she picked up Winston early on a Sunday morning. His friends placed him in the front seat, even though he was the only passenger. Kate agreed to take Winston to get fast food and the quarterback, she says, placed his hand on her crotch while they were waiting at the drive-thru.
Meanwhile, a 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.”
An Uber spokesperson issued a statement as well, indicating Winston is “permanently banned” from using the app.
“The behavior the driver reported is disturbing and wrong,” the statement read (via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, on Twitter). “The rider was permanently removed from the app shortly after we learned of the incident.”
Winston has since released a statement on the matter. The third-year Bucs quarterback does not deny he was in the car at that point but said he was not the person in the front seat at the time this alleged incident occurred.
“(Buzzfeed’s 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,” Winston said (via Twitter). “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 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.”
Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter told reporters that the team will soon release a statement on the matter. The franchise has since done so.
“We are in the process of obtaining further information regarding today’s media report,” the team said in a statement. “We take these matters seriously and are fully supportive of the investigation that is being conducted by the NFL.”
Winston has encountered trouble on this front before. While at Florida State, the quarterback was accused of rape in 2012. However, Tallahassee, Fla., police did not charge him with a crime in connection with that alleged incident. In 2016, Winston settled a civil suit with his accuser.
No police report was filed by this latest accuser with the Phoenix or Scottsdale, Ariz., Police Departments, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.