SOURCE: USA Today
The NFL announced Thursday that it has suspended Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston for the first three games of the season for groping a female Uber driver in 2016.
The league said in a press release that its investigation concluded that Winston violated the personal conduct policy by “touching the driver in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent.”
Winston, who strongly denied the allegation when it first became public in 2017, issued a statement Thursday shortly before the NFL’s announcement in which he apologized to the Uber driver for “the position I put you in.”
“It is uncharacteristic of me and I genuinely apologize,” Winston said in the statement. “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.
“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.”
Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, has accepted the suspension and will not appeal, with multiple reports indicating that the three-game ban was the result of a settlement between the league, players’ union and his representatives.
As part of Winston’s discipline, the NFL mandated that the quarterback must “obtain a clinical evaluation and fully cooperate in any recommended program of therapeutic intervention.”
“In addition, a future violation of the Personal Conduct Policy will result in more substantial discipline, including a potential ban from the NFL,” the league said in the press release.
Winston was accused of grabbing the Uber driver’s crotch while at the drive-through window of a Scottsdale, Ariz., restaurant in March 2016. The driver told BuzzFeed News in November that he held his hand there for three to five seconds.
“I wasn’t just creeped out,” said the driver, who was identified as “Kate” by the news outlet. “I was frozen.”
The NFL subsequently opened an investigation into the matter, led by NFL Special Counsel for Conduct Todd Jones. After interviewing the driver and Winston, among others, Jones found the Uber driver’s account to be “consistent and credible,” according to the league’s press release.
“All members of our organization are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with the Personal Conduct Policy of the NFL,” the Buccaneers said in a statement Thursday. “We are disappointed that Jameis put himself in a position that has been found to violate the policy and accept today’s decision by the Commissioner.”
Winston was previously accused of sexual assault while he was a student at Florida State, but the state attorney’s office declined to press charges. He settled a federal lawsuit with his accuser in 2016.
The 24-year-old, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2013, has started 45 games in three seasons with Tampa Bay. He will miss the team’s first three regular-season games against the New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers, with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick expected to start in his place.