The NFL has started an investigation over allegations that Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston groped a female Uber driver in 2016. BuzzFeed News reported:

A letter, viewed by BuzzFeed News, was sent from the NFL’s special counsel for investigations, Lisa Friel, to the Uber driver on 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.

BuzzFeed News named the alleged victim as Kate since she didn’t want her real name used in fear of backlash. She picked up Winston at 2AM in downtown Scottsdale, AZ, on March 13, 2016. He was the only rider, but slipped in the front seat with her.

She said he “behaved poorly” right away as he shouted “in part, homophobic slurs at pedestrians.” Winston wanted food so she drove him to Los Betos Mexican 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.

Afterwards, she filed a complaint with Uber:

Kate filed a complaint with Uber soon after the ride, writing that “apparently a big athlete in the nfl” reached over “and put his fingers on my crotch.” She added: “…it wasn’t my stomach or thigh, it was my crotch and I want to be clear about that.” Kate ended her incident report with Uber stating, “He is NOT safe for other drivers.”

BuzzFeed News has reviewed the incident report to Uber, in addition to the Uber ride’s trip details, as well as her exchanges with an Uber representative.

In response to the alleged incident the Uber representative wrote, “That kind of rider behavior is absolutely not tolerated on the platform, I recommend contacting law enforcement as soon as possible.” (Kate said she didn’t go to the police for the same reasons she didn’t want to be named in this article.)

Uber confirmed that the service eliminated the user from its app. Kate supplied BuzzFeed with the ride receipt, confirmation number, and name: Jameis Winston.

Kate told five people about the incident, all of which “corroborated details of Kate’s account.” They even shared text messages from that night with the publication, including one that named the quarterback.

Winston’s representative Russ Spielman denies the accusations. The team has not returned any media requests for comments.

Kate said she does not want money or fame, but wants the truth out. She found courage after so many women have come forward with their stories about powerful men abusing their position:

Kate said she doesn’t want money, and that the reason she came forward with her story now was because she wanted to tell the truth “about a powerful man who felt entitled to my body when all I wanted to do was my job.”

“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.”

She added, “He sexually assaulted me, and I have every right to tell the damn truth about it.”

Kate is not the first woman to accuse Winston of sexual misconduct. While at Florida State University, Erica Kinsman accused Winston of raping her in 2012. The accusations did not come to light until late 2013, the same year Winston won the Heisman and FSU won the national championship.

Winston settled a civil lawsuit, but investigations found that the police and prosecutors never questioned him. The New York Times discovered “that the police and the university did little to determine what had happened.”

FSU also settled a lawsuit with Kinsman:

In her lawsuit, which was settled in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Kinsman alleged that Florida State was “deliberately indifferent” to her reported sexual assault and that its response was “clearly unreasonable.” She asserted that FSU concealed and obstructed the investigation so as to allow Winston to play football.

Kinsman, who left FSU in November 2013 when the case became publicly known, argued that continued harassment denied her of her educational opportunities under Title IX.

The school paid $950,000, the amount of lawyers fees, to Kinsman and promised a “five-year commitment to awareness, prevention and training programs.”


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