Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston is being investigated for allegedly groping an Uber driver in March 2016, according to a letter written to the driver by an NFL executive and obtained by BuzzFeed News. The NFL has confirmed that they are aware of the allegation and that they have "reached out to Uber to request any information they may have" with the regards to the alleged incident.
The female Uber driver, identified only as "Kate," spoke with BuzzFeed News this week and revealed that she gave Winston a ride at approximately 2 a.m. on March 13, 2016 while he was in Arizona for Kurt Warner’s annual "Ultimate Football Experience" event. During the ride, Winston asked her to stop at a drive-thru restaurant, and while the two waited in line, she claims Winston reached over and "grabbed" her crotch for several seconds before removing his hand after she asked, "What’s up with that?" She told BuzzFeed News that she "froze" during the incident and was unsure of how she should react.
"I wasn’t just creeped out," she said. "I was frozen…I mean, he’s an NFL quarterback and I’m 5-foot-6. I’m not prepared for that. So I completely froze."
In addition to accusing Winston of groping her, the woman also accused him of directing homophobic slurs at several pedestrians while in her vehicle. She told BuzzFeed News that she filed a complaint against Winston with Uber shortly after dropping him off. An Uber representative responded and told her that Winston’s alleged behavior was "absolutely not tolerated" and recommended she contact police. She declined to do so.
On Thursday, the driver received a letter from Lisa Friel, the NFL’s special counsel for investigations. In the letter, Friel told the driver an investigation into the incident was underway.
"The League has been informed that you may have been the victim of such a violation perpetuated by Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Jameis Winston," it said. "The league takes allegations of this nature very seriously and has opened an investigation into this matter."
A representative for Winston has denied the allegation made by the Uber driver. "It is our understanding the Uber driver was unable to identify the specific individual who allegedly touched this driver inappropriately," the rep told BuzzFeed News. "The only reason his name is being dragged into this is that his Uber account was used to call the ride."
Winston himself also released a statement on Twitter on Friday denying the allegation.
"A news organization has published a story about me regarding an alleged incident involving a female Uber driver from approximately two years ago," Winston wrote in his statement. "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."
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers released a short statement in response to the BuzzFeed News report on Friday afternoon.
The alleged incident took place about nine months before Winston agreed to settle a civil lawsuit with a woman who accused him of raping her in 2012 while he was a student-athlete at Florida State.