Jameis Winston will be suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, according to a report on Thursday by Adam Schefter of ESPN.
His violation? Well, in March 2016, Winston allegedly grabbed the crotch of a female Uber driver who has been identified as “Kate” during a ride. BuzzFeed News first reported the allegation last November, and the NFL subsequently opened an investigation into Winston’s conduct.
As of Saturday, the league has not confirmed Winston’s suspension, and it seems possible the length of the suspension could still be altered based on new reports.
But here’s what we know for sure: Kate reported the assault to Uber right after it happened, telling them that “apparently a big athlete in the nfl” reached over “and put his fingers on my crotch.” Uber proceeded to deactivate his account. In November, Kate told BuzzFeed that she felt it was important to come forward publicly to tell the truth “about a powerful man who felt entitled to my body when all I wanted to do was my job.”
When reports of the incident first surfaced, Winston categorically denied the allegations. He said Kate was “confused as to the number of passengers in the car and who was sitting next to her.” Winston said that while his account was used to book the ride, he and another friend, Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby, were in the backseat and a third friend, unnamed at the time, was in the front seat.
However, on Friday, the Tampa Bay Times reported that there were actually two separate Uber rides on the night in question.
The source who provided this information was Brandon Banks, former Vanderbilt football player and a friend of Darby’s, who is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence for aggravated rape and sexual assault for his role in a 2013 gang rape. Though Banks had already been charged by March 2016, he was hanging out with Winston and Darby that night because he was out of jail on a $50,000 bond.
Through his attorney, Banks said that he rode to the club in an Uber with Darby and Winston, but that he and Darby sent Winston home alone because he had gotten “unruly.” Banks said he came forward because Winston was trying to pin the assault on him, since he was riding in the front seat during the first Uber ride.
According to Banks’ account, Winston was alone with Kate in the car during his second Uber ride on the way home — which matches up with her account.
There’s a lot to unpack here. First, it’s an undeniably questionable decision for Winston to go out to bars with another person facing rape charges so soon after he was publicly caught up in his own sexual assault case. But that’s far from the worst decision he made that night.
If the allegations are true, it’s amazing that Winston felt he could get away with so brazenly assaulting a woman. Except, of course, for the fact that he’s done this before without facing many consequences for it.
When Winston was accused of sexually assaulting a fellow Florida State classmate back in December 2012, the Tallahassee police and Florida State University both failed to properly investigate the case — in fact, the police didn’t collect a lot of the evidence and hand over the case to prosecutors until a media inquiry in the fall of 2013 prompted them to take action. Winston was never suspended from school or football for the incident.
Then, in April 2015, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Winston with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. The Buccaneers bragged about their due diligence before making their quarterback pick, citing the hours upon hours they spent interviewing people to learn more about Winston.
But the one person they never even attempted to interview? Erika Kinsman, the woman who accused Winston of “sexual battery, assault, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress arising out of forcible rape.”
Time and time again, powerful institutions showed that they were willing to look the other way when serious accusations were hurled Winston’s way because he’s a talented, charming quarterback. And when enabling and entitlement meet, it’s a recipe for unmitigated disaster.
Given that reality, it’s a positive step that the NFL at least took some action in this case. However, if they found enough evidence to believe Winston actually put his hand on a woman’s crotch without her consent while she was working, a three-game suspension hardly seems like enough.
When Kate came forward last November, it was during the height of the #MeToo movement. She told BuzzFeed she felt “empowered” by hearing other survivors speak up, and feared that if she was silent “further harm will come to other women.”
Plus, she added, “He sexually assaulted me, and I have every right to tell the damn truth about it.”