The NFL is investigating a claim made by an Arizona Uber driver that she was groped by Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston in March 2016. According to a report by Buzzfeed News, the league's special counsel for investigations, Lisa Friel, sent a letter to the driver Thursday.
"The League has been informed that you may have been the victim of such a violation perpetrated by Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Jameis Winston. The league takes allegations of this nature very seriously and has opened an investigation into this matter," the letter read.
Asked about the allegation, Winston replied that it was the first he was hearing of it. He also issued a statement denying the allegations through a representative:
"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."
He later released a more detailed statement:
The Buccaneers put out a statement as well, noting that they support the NFL's investigation.
The NFL simply stated that the matter is under review.
"The matter is under review," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy says when asked to confirm an NFL investigation into allegations of Bucs QB Jameis Winston inappropriately touching a female Uber driver in Arizona in 2016, as first reported by Buzzfeed.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) November 17, 2017
The driver, given the alias Kate by Buzzfeed News, gave the following account of the incident:
Kate received a call to pick up a rider in downtown Scottsdale around 2 a.m. on March 13, 2016. Upon arrival, a group of men told her that she would be driving someone famous: Jameis Winston. They then placed him in the front seat of the car, even though he was the only passenger. Kate stated that early in the ride, Winston began shouting homophobic slurs at pedestrians. 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."
"I mean he's an NFL quarterback and I'm 5 ft 6. I'm not prepared for that. So I completely froze," she said, worried that she might provoke an unwanted reaction.
Buzzfeed News also published the incident report the driver filed with Uber, which matches her description of the incident in the story (capitalization and spelling is exact from the report):
"we stopped to get food at a Mexican drive thru. while we were stopped, out of the clear blue, this rider reached over and put his fingers on my crotch. It wasn't accidental, and it was only for a very brief moment. It wasn't my stomach of my thigh, it was my crotch and I want to be clear about that. I was totally shocked, and I shook him off and just said, what's up with that? looking back I sincerely wish I would have kicked him out but he is apparently a big athlete in the nfl and he's very physically imposing, and I was afraid that I'd make him more angry. the rest of the ride proceeded without incident. He is NOT safe for other female drivers."
Buzzfeed News also reviewed communications the driver had with five friends about the incident, and published one text message that described the incident the same way. The driver told Buzzfeed News that she does not want money from Winston and merely wanted to tell the truth "about a powerful man who felt entitled to my body when all I wanted to do was my job."