The NFL will likely suspend Tampa Bay Buccaneers Quarterback Jameis Winston for three games following allegations he groped an Uber driver in Arizona in 2016, according to reports.
Winston, 24, a Heisman Trophy winner and a number one draft pick, is accused of violating the league's personal conduct policy, according to ESPN.com. He hasn’t been officially notified of the decision, ESPN said, citing sources, adding that depending on the circumstances there could either be an increase or decrease in the suspension.
He could be notified as early as Friday, according to ESPN.com, or possibly next week. He may try to appeal, but because his base salary this season is $705,000, he only stands to lose $124,000. Next year, his base salary will be $20.9 million, so if he defers the suspension he would lose much more money.
The alleged incident happened on March 13, 2016. Winston, who spent that day at a football camp in Scottsdale and then went downtown, called an Uber around 2 a.m., according to Buzzfeed News, which cited a letter the NFL had sent to the driver.
The driver, a woman named Kate, told the outlet that an excited group of men told her that she'd be driving a famous person. The driver said Winston, who sat in the front passenger seat, was the only one she drove that night, and she said that, "right away, Jameis behaved poorly."
She said he shouted homophobic slurs at pedestrians and then wanted food. When they were in the drive-thru of Los Betos Mexican Food, she said, "he reached over and he just grabbed my crotch." She said he kept his hand in the area for three to five seconds and only removed it after she looked up in shock and admonished him.
"I wasn't just creeped out," she told Buzzfeed. "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." Kate said she was worried how to react and what he would do next.
Winston, informed of the allegations by the NFL last December, has not commented. However, he did release a statement at the time saying he was sorry if his "demeanor or presence made her uncomfortable in any way," while still denying the allegations.
He said Kate was wrong about the number of passengers in the car, according to ESPN.com. He was in the car, he said, with Ronald Darby, a former college teammate and current Eagles cornerback, a statement Darby corroborated. They also said there was a third person in the passenger seat, who they declined to identify.
Winston was also notably accused of sexual assault at Florida State University in 2012, and Tallahassee police investigated but never filed charges. The accuser eventually filed a suit and Winston countersued, according to ESPN.com. The suits were settled out of court in 2016.
Winston has had a few other troubles over the years and it was questionable at one point whether the Bucs would actually draft him, according to the Tampa Bay Times. A second woman met with FSU’s victim’s advocate program about a sexual encounter with Winston while he was there, but it was never reported to police.
Winston was also suspended for a game in 2014 when he made vulgar comments about women on campus. He ended up in the news when he took crab legs from a supermarket without paying for them, according to the Tampa Bay Times. He was suspended from the baseball team and cited for shoplifting.
The decision isn’t encouraging for a team that went 5-11 last year and was hoping to rebound. Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is expected to step in.
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