BuzzFeed News is reporting that the NFL has launched an investigation into a complaint from a female Uber driver, who claims that Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston grabbed her by the crotch.
The driver, identified by the name “Kate,” received a letter from NFL Special Counsel for Investigations Lisa Friel, letting her know the matter was being investigated by the league.
In a letter reviewed by BuzzFeed, Friel wrote, “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.”
NFL Spokesman Brian McCarthy told BuzzFeed News, “The matter is under review. The allegation was shared with the NFL and we have reached out to Uber to request any information they may have.”
The incident allegedly occurred in March of 2016. Kate, told BuzzFeed News that after getting flagged down by a group of men in Scottsdale, Arizona, at 2 o’clock in the morning. The men informed her that she would be driving someone famous that night: Heisman Trophy winner and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston.
Then, according to Kate, things started going downhill from there.
Kate told BuzzFeed News:
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.”
“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.
For his part, Winston, and his representative, completely deny Kate’s story. Winston representative Russ Spielman said in a statement, “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.”
Winston addressed the issue himself on Twitter, claiming that the uber driver’s allegation was “false.”
“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. “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 continued, “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.”
Kate’s motivations for coming froward about an incident that occurred nearly two years ago, she claims, are not financial. Instead, she says she’s been inspired by other women who have spoken out and told the truth.
Kate says she wants to tell the truth “about a powerful man who felt entitled to my body when all I wanted to do was my job.”
Kate told BuzzFeed News, “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. If I’m silent, I fear that further harm will come to other women, if it hasn’t already.”
Kate emphasized, “He sexually assaulted me, and I have every right to tell the damn truth about it.”
This is not Jameis Winston’s first time being the subject of allegations of wrongdoing when it comes to sex. In 2012, Winston was accused of raping a woman who was a fellow student at Florida State at the time. Winston eventually settled a civil lawsuit with that woman.
This new alleged incident occurred in March of 2016, nine months before Winston settled the civil suit with regarding the 2012 rape allegation.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not respond to BuzzFeed’s request for comment.