According to a report from BuzzFeed News, the NFL is looking into an Uber driver’s claims that Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston grabbed her crotch while in her car in March 2016. BuzzFeed reports that NFL investigator Lisa Friel, most recently seen at the center of the Ezekiel Elliott case, sent a letter to a driver identified as Kate letting her know that the league would be opening the case. “The League has been informed that you may have been the victim of such a violation perpetrated by Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Jameis Winston,” she wrote, “The league takes allegations of this nature very seriously and has opened an investigation into this matter.”
Kate said she picked up Winston around 2:00 a.m. in Scottsdale, Arizona on March 13, 2016. He was supposedly the only person in the car, and as soon as she drove off with him, he apparently began yelling gay slurs at pedestrians before demanding that they go pick up some food. While waiting at Los Betos Mexican Food, Kate says Winston reached over, grabbed her crotch, and left his fingers there for “three to five seconds.” She said he only removed his hand after she asked him “What’s up with that?”
Winston was in town for a charity flag football event with Kurt Warner, and BuzzFeed corroborated her story with five witnesses. Neither the Bucs nor Winston’s reps commented on the matter, and Uber said that the rider in question was “permanently removed from the app shortly after we learned of the incident.” Kate told BuzzFeed, “He sexually assaulted me, and I have every right to tell the damn truth about it,” and said she was inspired to speak up by the large movement of women calling out perpetrators of sexual assault.
“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,” Kate said to BuzzFeed News. “If I’m silent, I fear that further harm will come to other women, if it hasn’t already.”
The incident happened ten months before Winston formally settled with a women who accused him of raping her in 2012.
Update (1:49 p.m. ET): Winston has released a statement denying the allegations:
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.