This week, reports emerged that the NFL is set to suspend Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback Jameis Winston for three games to start the season. The decision stems from a 2016 incident, in which Winston allegedly groped a female Uber driver in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The story was first published by BuzzFeed in November. In it, the driver, going only by "Kate," described the scene.
She said a group put Winston into the front seat of her car, alone, and that the alleged groping occurred in the drive-thru of a fast food restaurant.
Kate, a female Uber driver, was hailed to the lively party scene of downtown Scottsdale, Arizona to pick up a passenger around 2 a.m. on Sunday March 13, 2016. There, Kate told BuzzFeed News that a small group of men excitedly told her that she would be chauffeuring someone famous that night — Jameis Winston, 2013 Heisman Trophy winner and now quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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 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?”
Winston's representatives have maintained that this did not happen, and that there were other men in the car, including his former Florida State teammate Ronald Darby.
On Friday, ESPN's Paula Levigne filed a new report identifying the previously unnamed third person that was supposed to have been with Winston that night: former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Banks. Banks is currently serving 15 years in prison for rape during his time at Vanderbilt. He was sentenced last June, but was with Winston on the night of the 2016 incident.
Darby did not name Banks in his statements, but the testimonies would set him up as the person in the front seat of the car during the ride. However, according to Banks' attorney Mark Scruggs, he says that Winston took the ride alone, backing up Kate's story.
This Jameis Winston story is the latest in a long string of controversies surrounding the star quarterback.
Winston was accused of, but never charged with, rape by a fellow student at Florida State. There were also lesser incidents, including his standing on the table and yelling vulgarities at the school, stealing crab legs from a local Publix, and a BB gun shootout that cause thousands of dollars in damage at an FSU apartment complex.
After this latest incident, Tampa Bay Times sports columnist Tom Jones has had enough. He is calling for Winston to be released from the team:
Trade him. Waive him. Cut him.
Just get rid of him.
Jameis Winston should never play another game for the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Plain and simple, he's a bad guy and the Bucs should have nothing more to do with him.
The Bucs should send a message to the community that they do not accept, condone or tolerate this kind of conduct — not from anybody but especially not from the starting quarterback and the face of the franchise. They should say that who they are and what they stand for as an organization mean more than winning football games at any cost, including at the cost of the franchise's integrity.
As Jones notes, it is highly unlikely that the team actually takes a step like this, but he won't be alone in doing so. Winston has been a controversial figure since very early on in his career at Florida State, and he has been unable to keep himself on the straight and narrow, based on what we've heard about this alleged incident from others present.