Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, who is set to return to the field this week after missing the last three-plus games with a shoulder injury, met with reporters on Thursday and spoke for the first time about the allegation that he groped an Uber driver in 2016.
The NFL has opened an investigation into the alleged incident, in which a female driver told Buzzfeed News that in the early morning hours of March 13, 2016 in Scottsdale, Arizona, Winston, who was her fare and riding in the front passenger’s seat, reached across and grabbed her between the legs, keeping his hand there for several seconds.
“I have no fear at all,” Winston said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “But like I said, I have to respect our process.”
Video: Bucs QB Jameis Winston says he tried to learn while he was injured during last three weeks by watching how Ryan Fitzpatrick handled himself at quarterback. pic.twitter.com/CD1EcbWNpn
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The driver immediately reported the incident to Uber but did not go to police and told Buzzfeed she does not want money, only to let others know of Winston’s behavior. She said she was summoned to a pickup location through the app and several men placed Winston in her front seat, telling her she’d be driving a celebrity.
Almost immediately, the woman, who wanted to be known only as Kate so as to protect her privacy, said Winston began behaving poorly, shouting homophobic slurs at pedestrians. He asked Kate to take him for food.
It was in the drive-thru line of Los Betos Mexican Food that Kate says Winston “reached over and just grabbed my crotch,” not removing it until she looked at him and said, “What’s up with that?”
Shortly after Kate’s story was published by Buzzfeed, Winston released a statement saying in part that the driver was confused; he was not the only passenger in the car and who was sitting next to her. It also said, “I regret if my demeanor or presence made her uncomfortable in any way.”
Winston stood by his statement Thursday.
“Again, I put my statement out there discussing this allegation and I’ve got to respect the process on that part,” Winston said. “I’ve been vindicated several times on the past situation, so, you know, my statements on those accusations stand firm, too.
“As always, it’s always a growing process in everything, and I’m going to continue to grow.”
Asked if he believed he would be vindicated, Winston replied, “Absolutely.”
Winston was investigated for rape while he was at Florida State, and was named in another campus report as sexually assaulting a second female student. Ultimately, he was not charged in either of those cases.