Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston became the latest male celebrity accused of sexual misconduct, after a female Uber driver alleged that he groped her in the crotch in 2016.
Earlier on Friday, BuzzFeed News obtained a copy of a letter sent by the NFL to the now-former Uber driver, where the woman, who chose only to be identified as “Kate,” was informed that the league is now investigating her allegations that Jameis Winston had groped her while on a ride in Scottsdale, Arizona. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy did not go into much detail when pressed by BuzzFeed News, telling the publication that the league is currently working with Uber to get more information on the matter.
According to BuzzFeed News, the incident happened in downtown Scottsdale on Sunday, March 13, 2016 at around 2 a.m., when Kate was informed that she would be chauffeuring Winston, then fresh off his rookie season as the first-overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft. As noted by Deadspin, Winston was in town at that time for a charity flag football event organized by NFL Hall of Famer and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Kurt Warner.
With Winston reportedly the only passenger in the car, Kate recalled having heard the Buccaneers quarterback yelling homophobic slurs at pedestrians early on in the ride. She added that Winston asked her to stop for some for some food, and that was when he allegedly grabbed her crotch. Kate, who has since left Uber, claims that Jameis Winston groped her for three to five seconds as they waited in line at Los Betos Mexican Food’s drive-thru, and only removed his hand from her crotch when she asked him, “What’s up with that?”
“I wasn’t just creeped out. I was frozen,” said Kate, who was then in her second year as an Uber driver, and intimidated by the size of Winston, whom the NFL lists as standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 231 pounds.
“I mean, he’s an NFL quarterback and I’m 5-foot-6. I’m not prepared for that. So I completely froze.”
The NFL is investigating an allegation that Jameis Winston grabbed his Uber driver’s crotch. If only there had been some warning Jameis had behaved inappropriately with women before. https://t.co/StrvuFIRuz— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) November 17, 2017
Kate reported the alleged Jameis Winston groping incident to Uber soon after it took place, making it clear that the former Heisman Trophy winner for Florida State had “put his fingers on [her] crotch,” and not her stomach or thigh. Uber responded back, condemning Winston’s purported behavior and suggesting that Kate contact law enforcement for further assistance, but she chose not to do so, fearing potential backlash from NFL fans. BuzzFeed News confirmed with Uber that Winston was banned from using the ride-hailing service.
With producer Harvey Weinstein, director James Toback, actor and comedian Louis C.K., and a host of others making headlines for their alleged sexual misconduct against women, Kate felt motivated to speak up over a year after the incident, telling BuzzFeed News that she wasn’t driven by the potential of monetary gain.
“I have been empowered by my sisters who have forged this path by speaking up, and I must do my part to make it a little more well traveled. If I’m silent, I fear that further harm will come to other women, if it hasn’t already.”
Sports Illustrated noted that this isn’t the first time Jameis Winston has been accused of some form of sexual misconduct. While Winston was still studying at Florida State, a woman named Erica Kinsman accused him of sexual assault in 2012, suing the school and coming to terms on a settlement that was to pay her $950,000. Winston was also sanctioned in 2014 for yelling a homophobic slur in public, getting suspended for one half of a game as punishment.
Meanwhile, Jameis Winston released a statement denying the groping allegations and mentioning that he issued a similar denial to Uber, only for the service to suspend his 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.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter said that the team will be issuing its own statement on the Jameis Winston case. He did not reference the supposed groping incident or hint at any possible sanctions, as he told reporters he was not previously aware of the allegations.
[Featured Image by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images]