Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston denied allegations that he groped a female Uber driver in March 2016 in Scottsdale, Ariz.
"A news organization has published a story about me regarding an alleged incident involving a female Uber driver from approximately two years ago," Winston said Friday afternoon in a statement released in response to BuzzFeed News report.
"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 decided to suspend my account.
"I am supportive of the national movement to raise awareness and develop better responses to the concerns of parties who find themselves in these types of situations, but this accusation is false," Winston said. "While I am certain I did not make any inappropriate contact, I don't want to engage in a battle with the driver and I regret if my demeanor or presence made her uncomfortable in any way.""
The Buccaneers issued a statement Friday, saying, "We are in the process of obtaining further information regarding today's media report. We take these matters seriously and are fully supportive of the investigation that is being conducted by the NFL."
The BuzzFeed News report is based on a letter sent by the NFL this week to the driver, who is accusing Winston of grabbing her crotch.
The letter says: "The League has been informed that you may have been the victim of such a violation perpetrated by Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Jameis Winston. The league takes allegations of this nature very seriously and has opened an investigation into this matter."
The driver told BuzzFeed News that when she arrived to a party scene in downtown Scottsdale around 2 a.m., a group of men told her that she would be transporting Winston. The men put Winston in the front passenger seat, and he was the only passenger, the report says.
While in a drive-thru at a Mexican restaurant, Winston "reached over and he just grabbed my crotch" and kept his hand there for "three to five seconds," the driver alleges. According to the report, he removed his hand only when she looked up in shock and said 'What's up with that?'"
The report documented a complaint filed to Uber and said the driver declined to file criminal charges for the same reasons she did not give her name for use in this story, not wanting to be known nationally as Winston's accuser.
BuzzFeed Deputy News Director Tom Namako posted on Twitter the following statement from the quarterback's representatives, who are denying Winston grabbed the woman: "We categorically deny this allegation. It is our understanding the Uber driver was unable to identify the specific individual who allegedly touched this driver … The only reason his name is being dragged into this is that his Uber account was used to call the ride."
Uber confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times on Friday that on March 13, 2016 a driver in Arizona reported the incident allegedly involving Winston shortly after the trip in question. Uber's community guidelines prohibit any kind of sexual conduct.
"The behavior the driver reported is disturbing and wrong," an Uber spokesperson said in a statement released to the Times. "The rider was permanently removed from the app shortly after we learned of the incident."
In December 2016, Winston settled a lawsuit with a woman who accused him of rape in 2012, when both were students at Florida State.
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said the team is aware of the report and would be issuing a statement later. Koetter would not say whether he was aware of the allegations before the BuzzFeed News report.