Jameis Winston received a three-game suspension from the NFL for a March 2016 incident with an Uber driver in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Uber driver, who has only been identified publicly by her first name Kate, alleged Winston grabbed her crotch while he was a passenger in an Uber ride.
BuzzFeed News originally detailed the incident that was, at the time, being investigated by the NFL.
Kate, a female Uber driver, was hailed to the lively party scene of downtown Scottsdale, Arizona to pick up a passenger around 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 13, 2016. There, Kate told BuzzFeed News that a small group of men excitedly told her that she would be chauffeuring someone famous that night — Jameis Winston, 2013 Heisman Trophy winner and now quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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 by her full name 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?”
“I wasn’t just creeped out,” said Kate, who had been driving with Uber for more than two years at that point. (She no longer drives for the service.) “I was frozen.” She described Winston as “very physically imposing.”
The NFL Concluded Winston Touched the Driver in an “Inappropriate & Sexual Manner”
Without going into specific details, the NFL announced that their investigation concluded Winston touched Kate in an “inappropriate and sexual manner.” Here is a look at the suspension announcement released by the league, per NFL.com.
The NFL “concluded that Winston violated the personal conduct policy by touching the driver in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent and that disciplinary action was necessary and appropriate.” As part of of his discipline, Winston is required to obtain a clinical evaluation and fully cooperate in any recommended program of therapeutic intervention.
“A failure either to obtain the evaluation or to cooperate with treatment will result in further discipline,” the league said in a statement. “In addition, a future violation of the personal conduct policy will result in more substantial discipline, including a potential ban from the NFL.”
Winston Issued an Apology After Previously Denying the Incident
When news broke about the alleged incident, Winston denied it took place. Once the NFL levied the suspension, Winston issued an apology through NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport where he also noted he would be giving up alcohol.
The NFL informed me today that I will be suspended for the first three games of the season.
I’m sorry to the Uber driver for the position I put you in. It is uncharacteristic of me and I genuinely apologize. In the past 2 1/2 years my life has been filled with experiences, opportunities and events that have helped me grow, mature and learn, including the fact that I have eliminated alcohol from my life.
In his original statement on the incident, Winston denied the event took place and implied it could have been someone else in the Uber ride. Here is Winston’s original statement released denying the claims (via BuzzFeed).
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.
Winston’s representative, Russ Spielman, claimed the Bucs quarterback was being “dragged into this” in a statement he released to BuzzFeed during the NFL investigation.
“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.”
Kate, the Uber Driver, Accepted the Apology, While TMZ Reported Winston Is Still Telling People Privately He Did Not Grope Her
Kate publicly accepted Winston’s apology, while also noting it “needs some work.” Kate issued the following statement to NFL.com.
I am glad to see the NFL discipline Jameis Winston. I do appreciate his apology, even if it needs some work.
I would like to publicly acknowledge the NFL investigators, particularly Lisa Friel and John Iannerelli, for their kind, professional and thorough investigation.
My experience should highlight the importance of believing women when they have the courage to come forward about sexual assault. Perhaps that night could have been prevented if others had been believed before me.
Mr. Winston once said, “Girls should be silent, polite and gentle.” I disagree.
As for Winston, TMZ reported on June 28 that Winston is still privately telling friends he did not grope Kate.
“Important to note — Winston never denies the allegations in his statement but we’ve learned he’s privately telling friends he did NOT grope the woman,” TMZ reported.
Winston was also involved in a sexual assault investigation during his time at Florida State, but the charges were eventually dropped. Winston will return to the Buccaneers in Week 4, and is expected to begin his season as the backup to Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Kate Is Now Suing Winston for “Punitive Damage”
While Kate accepted Winston’s apology, the USA Today reported the Uber driver filed a lawsuit against Winston in federal court on September 18th. USA Today described the details of the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Arizona, lawyers for the driver said that Winston – who sat in the passenger seat – “placed his fingers between her legs and pressed them firmly against her vagina over her yoga pants” as the two sat in the drive-through of a fast food restaurant in the early morning hours of March 13, 2016…
The driver, identified as Kate P. in the lawsuit, seeks punitive damages for the alleged sexual assault and a trial to determine “past, present and future emotional pain and suffering, and past and future economic losses in amounts to be determined by the jury.” Winston is the only listed defendant in the eight-page lawsuit obtained by USA TODAY Sports.
USA Today reported Uber conducted their own private investigation and banned Winston from using the ride-sharing service for life.