Jameis Winston took the NFL equivalent of a deal earlier this week, agreeing to be suspended for three games in return for not appealing his league-sanctioned punishment after an Uber driver said he groped her. In return for Winston agreeing to his suspension, the NFL hasn’t revealed much about what it uncovered other than its final ruling—that Winston “violated the Personal Conduct Policy by touching the driver in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent.”
The NFL hasn’t said anything about what evidence it gathered, what the evidence showed, or even how the investigation worked. The expected letter outlining all the misdeeds hasn’t surfaced through any NFL reporters, as has happened in the past. There was no conference call to explain the league’s actions, as was done after the Ezekiel Elliott suspension. But the Uber driver and her attorney are talking. The driver released this statement.
Her attorney, John Clune, told me that the league indicated to them that one piece of evidence gathered by NFL investigators was text messages from the phone of Ronald Darby, a Philadelphia Eagles cornerback and former teammate of Winston’s at Florida State. When the Uber driver first spoke out, Darby issued a statement implying that she was lying; he said there were three people in the car at the time, and that Winston had been in the backseat. The statement ended by saying, “The accusations are just not true.”
Jump ahead to this week, and it appears that Darby’s text messages told a different story. Clune said they showed that Darby “was still outside the club as the Uber ride was finishing.” This is on top of another person who was with Winston that night, Brandon Banks, saying that Winston did take an Uber ride by himself, unlike what the Darby statement said. Banks currently is serving 15 years in prison for raping an unconscious woman at Vanderbilt.
Clune said the Uber driver felt very good about how seriously the league took the investigation, and that they were “extremely understanding and professional the entire time.” The woman, he said, had been less concerned with what number of games Winston was suspended and, instead, wanted “to see some accountability.”
“It became an odd exercise to try to think of how many games equates to sexual misconduct like this,” Clune said. “It underscored the sense that her focus should be on seeing a positive outcome, instead of any particular discipline.”