The feel good story of Jameis Winston’s maturation could be headed off-course.
While 2017 began with high expectations for Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the season has quickly turned into something of a lost cause for both player and team. The latest wrinkle is one that could become the worst part yet.
BuzzFeed is reporting that the NFL is investigating Winston due to claims that he grabbed a Uber driver’s crotch last year. A league spokesman confirmed both the allegation and the investigation and told BuzzFeed it is taking the matter “very seriously.”
The Uber driver’s story is that she responded to a call in the early hours of March 13, 2016, and picked up Winston. He sat in the front seat, and after complying with his request to go through a drive-thru for food, he allegedly reached over and groped her.
Because of a fear of backlash from football fans, the driver says she chose not to come forward with her story or report Winston’s behavior to law enforcement at the time. She didn’t say it in so many words, but the implication is that she felt empowered to tell the tale now due to similar steps by victims of alleged sexual assaults across the country in recent weeks, particularly those with high profile perpetrators.
Winston is no stranger to off the field incidents, and has been accused of sexual assault once before during his time at Florida State. Criminal charges against him from a 2013 rape accusation were never filed, though the school settled out of court with the alleged victim and civil actions between Winston and his accuser continued into this year.
Of course, the NFL has shown in the Ezekiel Elliott case that criminal guilt is not the deciding factor in whether or not it decides to discipline players for off the field trouble. Combined with his already erratic play and injury issues, this season is turning into a nightmare for Winston and could soon become one for the Bucs as well.