The NFL is investigating an allegation that Jameis Winston, the 23-year-old Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, grabbed a female Uber driver's crotch in 2016. Winston has, however, denied the allegations, calling them false.
The alleged incident took place in Scottsdale, Arizona early morning on 13 March last year when Winston was seated in the front seat of the vehicle, BuzzFeed News first reported. He was the lone passenger during the late night ride.
The former Uber driver, identified as Kate, told the media outlet that Winston "behaved poorly" from the start of the ride and shouted homophobic slurs at pedestrians before asking to stop for food.
While waiting in line at the drive-thru of Los Betos Mexican Food, Kate said "he reached over and just grabbed my crotch". He allegedly held his hand there for three to five seconds and only removed it after she looked up in shock and said, "What's up with that?"
"I wasn't just creeped out," Kate told BuzzFeed News. "I was frozen. I mean he's an NFL quarterback and I'm 5 ft 6. I'm not prepared for that. So I completely froze."
She noted she had been driving with Uber for more than two years at the time. She no longer drives for the ride-hailing service.
A letter sent by the NFL's special counsel for investigations Lisa Friel to the alleged victim read: "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."
An NFL spokesperson said in a statement that the matter is under review and the league has reached out to Uber "to request any information they may have". The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also said in a statement that they are obtaining more information regarding the allegations.
"We take these matters seriously and are fully supportive of the investigation that is being conducted by the NFL," the team said.
Winston took to Twitter on Friday to denounce the report that he groped a female Uber driver.
"A news organisation has published a story about me regarding an alleged incident involving a female Uber driver from approximately two years ago," Winston said in a statement. "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. 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.
"While I am certain that 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," Winston wrote.
Kate had filed a complaint with Uber shortly after the ride writing that a "big athlete in the nfl" reached over and "put his fingers on my crotch."
"It wasn't my stomach or thigh, it was my crotch and I want to be clear about that," Kate wrote in the incident report. "He is NOT safe for other drivers."
An Uber representative said in a statement: "That kind of rider behavior is absolutely not tolerated on the platform, I recommend contacting law enforcement as soon as possible."
The company added that the driver would not be "matched with this rider going forward" and noted that the rider was banned from Uber.
The alleged incident comes nearly a year after Winston settled a civil lawsuit with a woman in December last year who accused him of rape when they both were students at Florida State University in 2012. He was never charged over the incident.