On Friday, Buccaneers’ quarterback Jameis Winston was accused of inappropriate contact with a female Uber driver. Here’s what we know and how to make sens of it.
Okay, this has been all over the internet and television since Friday. I have intentionally waited this long before making a peep about it. Why? Because so many were so quick to be the judge, jury, and executioner the second Jameis Winston was accused of groping a female Uber driver during a ride in Arizona in 2016.
According to BuzzFeed, the driver gave this statement regarding the drive the night in question;
"“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 by her full name 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,”"
The driver also claimed that Winston was the only one in the car, that a group of men “excitedly told her that she would be (driving) a famous NFL player” that evening.
Winston issued a statement in response after it was announced that the NFL was opening an investigation;
"“A news organization has published a story about me regarding an alleged incident involving a female Uber driver from approximately two years ago. The story falsely accuses me of making inappropriate contact with this driver. I believe the driver was confused as to the number of passengers in the car and who was sitting next to her. The accusation is false, and given the nature of the allegation and increased awareness and consideration of these types of matters, I am addressing this false report immediately. At the time of the alleged incident, I denied the allegations to Uber, yet they still decided to suspend my account,”"
Here’s where things get tricky. The driver claims that Winston was the only one in the car. Now, there are conflicting accounts citing that not only was Winston not the only one in the car, but that he was in the backseat during the drive. Former Florida State teammate and current Philadelphia Eagle Ronald Darby came to Winston’s defense with his statement;
"“I felt the need to come forward and clarify some inaccurate accounts of the evening of March 13, 2016 when myself, a friend and Jameis Winston took an Uber ride in Arizona,” Darby said in a statement. “There were three of us in the car, not just one as has been reported. Myself and Jameis were in the backseat. I am confident that nothing inappropriate in nature happened in the car that evening and Jameis did not have any physical contact with the Uber driver. The accusations are just not true.”"
Some are already skeptical at Darby’s comments considering he was a witness during Winston’s sexual assault case in 2012. Some believe he is just sticking up for his buddy and that he may not be telling the truth, but more on Darby later.
Sunday it came out that the Uber driver has now retained the services of John Clune – the lawyer that represented Erica Kinsman in Jameis Winston‘s 2012 sexual assault allegation. Clune had a few things to say after being retained, saying that he “would not anticipate any more interviews or lawsuits unless provoked by Mr. Winston.” He then focuses on his new attack towards Darby;
Here are the issues that are arising out of this allegation;
At the time of the report to Uber, the driver said she couldn’t identify the person who groped her, then over a year later she realizes it’s Jameis Winston? Next, she claims there was one person in the car – Winston – whereas Winston and Darby have said there was three of them. At this point, we are stuck in “he said/she said” land.
The fact that Winston already has an allegation against him in his past is not making this situation any easier. It’s also not helping that he, nor Darby, have named the person that was allegedly in the front seat during the ride with them.
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This is a serious matter. Period. No matter how you cut it, this raises eyebrows towards Jameis Winston’s character yet again. Whether you believe him or the Under driver or believe it’s somewhere in between, this is yet another long awaited accusation during this current string of stories coming out against celebrities.
There is no way to tell exactly what happened that night considering there’s no video or audio evidence. If there is a way to prove that Darby and another person were in fact in the car, that puts a massive hole in the accuser’s story and would virtually nullify the entire report. If there is no proof, that would go in favor of the accuser and make not only Jameis Winston look bad, but Ronald Darby as well.
The NFL will conduct their investigation and they take great pride in their abilities to dig up evidence. Take a look at the lengthy investigations involving Tom Brady and Ezekiel Elliott. If there is indeed enough evidence for a suspension, Winston will be guilty in the court of public opinion and will cause the Buccaneers to take a good, hard look at their franchise quarterback and they will be forced to make a decision; give him the benefit of the doubt or move on from him.
As far as Darby is concerned, my argument is simply this; if you are out with close friends one night and have allegations brought against you, then four years later you’re out with close friends again, chances are it’s the same group of friends. I know when I go out with my buddies, it’s the same group every time. There’s nothing weird or “convenient” about Darby popping up in both of these cases. Close friends are close friends. Chances are they hadn’t had much time to see one another since joining the NFL and were excited to hit the town together.
There will be more and more coming out about this in the coming weeks and months but this is where we stand right now. Some people still stand firm on the foundation of people are innocent until proven guilty. Others like to rush to judgement and find people guilty without knowing all the facts.
This is not victim shaming. This is not a knock against the #MeToo movement. The victims coming forward with their stories are incredibly brave and should be revered as such. That said, accusations are simply that. Accusations. Until there is hard evidence or a confession, we have to treat them appropriately. It’s not fair to the accused if the allegations are false just like it’s not fair to the victim to attack them because you don’t like what they have to say, despite the traumatic experience they have gone through. At this point, we don’t know which is which in this instance.
Until more information comes out, I will not pass judgement on either side. As it stands now, with the information we have, it seems to me that it is more likely than not that the allegations are false. However, there needs to be proof that emerges corroborating the claim that Winston was not alone in order to back up Winston’s side of the story.
If you’d like to hear more Buccaneers discussion, be sure to check out the PewterCast’s InstantCast show for this week where several callers brought up the topic. Available on all major podcasting apps.