Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston was suspended by the NFL on Thursday for the first three games of the season, the result of a seven-month investigation into the Buccaneers star’s alleged groping of an Uber driver two years ago in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The NFL launched an investigation after a BuzzFeed report in which a woman who identified herself as “Kate” said Winston reached over and grabbed her crotch while they were waiting at a drive-thru restaurant at 2 a.m. Although no police charges were filed, the driver filed a formal complaint with Uber.
Todd Jones, the NFL’s special counsel for conduct, determined that the Uber driver’s account of the incident was “consistent and credible.”
“As a result,” the NFL said in a written statement, “the investigation had concluded that Winston violated the Personal Conduct Policy by touching the driver in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent and that disciplinary action was necessary and appropriate.”
Winston, who had denied the allegation, issued an apology Thursday and indicated that alcohol use was at least partly to blame.
“First and foremost, I would like to say I’m sorry to the Uber driver for the position I put you in. It is uncharacteristic of me, and I genuinely apologize,” he said, via Ian Rapoport of NFL Media. “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.
“I know I have to hold myself to a higher standard on and off the field and that I have a responsibility to my family, community, and teammates to live above the platform with which God has blessed me. I apologize to my teammates, the Buccaneers organization and fans for letting them down and for not being able to be out there for the first three games of the season. 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.
“I now look forward to putting this behind me and I will continue to work hard every day to be a positive influence in my community and be the best person, teammate and leader I can be.”
Winston will miss games against New Orleans, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. He will be replaced by backup Ryan Fitzpatrick.
“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 written statement. “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.”
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