The NFL announced on Thursday that Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston will be suspended the first three games of the 2018 season, for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
According to a league statement:
In November 2017, the NFL learned of an incident involving Winston and a shared-ride service driver that had taken place in March 2016 in Scottsdale, AZ. The incident, which had been immediately reported by the driver to her employer and which resulted in Winston’s removal from the ride-sharing platform, was also publicly reported last November.
The league promptly initiated a comprehensive investigation that included interviews with several persons, including the driver, Winston and others with relevant information. The league also examined an extensive amount of other evidence, including telephone records, business records, data from electronic devices and other communications. Based on the investigation, the NFL found that Winston had violated the NFL Personal Conduct Policy, which allows for discipline to be imposed even when criminal charges are not presented.
According to Pro Football Talk, “While the statement does not delve into the specifics, it explains that Winston ‘violated the Personal Conduct Policy by touching the driver in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent and that disciplinary action was necessary and appropriate.'”
Winston issued a statement accepting the league’s punishment, and apologizing for his behavior:
The NFL informed me today that I will be suspended for the first three games of the season.
First and foremost, I would like to say I’m sorry to the Uber driver for the position I put you in. It is uncharacteristic of me and I genuinely apologize. In the past 2 1/2 years my life has been filled with experiences, opportunities and events that have helped me grow, mature and learn, including the fact that I have eliminated alcohol from my life.
I know I have to hold myself to a higher standard on and off the field and that I have a responsibility to my family, community, and teammates to live above the platform with which God has blessed me. I apologize to my teammates, the Buccaneers organization and fans for letting them down and for not being able to be out there for the first three games of the season. Although I am disappointed in the NFL’s decision, I understand the NFL’s process, and I embrace this as an opportunity to take advantage of the resources available to help me achieve the goals that I have for myself.
I now look forward to putting this behind me and I will continue to work hard every day to be a positive influence in my community and be the best person, teammate and leader I can be.
While Winston will not contest the suspension, controversy surrounding the punishment is likely to ensue. The NFL found evidence that Winston touched the driver in “an inappropriate and sexual manner” without her consent, and, by apologizing, Winston admits to there being some truth to their findings.
Yet, despite the league’s findings and Winston’s admission, the league only saw fit to suspend him for three games?
To put that in perspective:
1 game: Josh Brown repeatedly terrorizes his ex-wife
3 games: Jameis Winston sexually assaults an Uber driver
4 games: Tom Brady asks ball boys to underinflate footballs
16 games: Martavis Bryant uses marijuana
— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) June 28, 2018
The NFL has faced serious public backlash over their disciplinary policies in the past. Most notably, in July of 2014, when Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended for only two games after he violently knocked his wife unconscious in an Atlantic City elevator.
After video of the incident was released, the NFL suspended Rice indefinitely. Rice never played in the league again.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn