NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed to ESPN’s Jeff Darlington that the “allegation was shared with the NFL and we have reached out to Uber to request any information they may have.”
The league’s investigation was first reported Friday by BuzzFeed News, which viewed a letter it said was sent from NFL executive Lisa Friel to the Uber driver.
“The League has been informed that you may have been the victim of such a violation perpetrated by Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Jameis Winston,” Friel wrote in the letter. “The league takes allegations of this nature very seriously and has opened an investigation into this matter.”
The Buccaneers say they are aware of an allegation against Winston but did not provide specifics. Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said at his availability Friday he was “just finding out” about the allegation and said he expects the team to release a statement later in the day.
Winston was not on the field with the Buccaneers on Friday and hasn’t practiced all week because of a shoulder injury.
The driver, who declined to give her name, told BuzzFeed News that she picked Winston up at around 2 a.m. local time on March 13, 2016. Winston asked her to stop at a drive-thru restaurant during the ride, and while in line, the driver said Winston reached over and “grabbed” her crotch for three to five seconds, only removing his hand when she said something. Winston was the only passenger in the car.
The driver told BuzzFeed News that she reported the incident to Uber at the time. An Uber spokesman told ESPN that the “behavior the driver reported is disturbing and wrong. The rider was permanently removed from the app shortly after we learned of the incident.”
Winston was in Arizona for Kurt Warner’s annual “Ultimate Football Experience” event during the weekend that the incident allegedly occurred. Winston’s representative Russ Spielman denied the allegations in a statement to BuzzFeed News.
“We categorically deny this allegation,” Spielman said. “It is our understanding the Uber driver was unable to identify the specific individual who allegedly touched this driver inappropriately. The only reason his name is being dragged into this is that his Uber account was used to call the ride.”
ESPN’s Jenna Laine contributed to this report.