There are many unanswered questions and discrepancies about the story of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and the March 2016 Uber ride in Arizona that has led to his upcoming three-game suspension for violating the NFL's conduct policy.
The Bucs won't comment on the suspension of Winston, accused of groping a female Uber driver – an accusation he has denied – until the league sends out an official letter about it, and that's not expected to happen until at Monday at the earliest. Here are some questions floating around about the situation and our best attempt to answer them:
Should the NFL be playing detective? Police have never been called about the allegation. How can the NFL suspend Winston if there's not a criminal charge?
Like any employer, the NFL can do its own research and penalize an employee independent of the legal system. It doesn't need a criminal charge to impose a suspension when it determines its personal conduct policy has been violated. The league suspended Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games last season over a domestic violence allegation that never resulted in criminal charges.
It was reported that a lawyer for former Vanderbilt player Brandon Banks, now serving a 15-year prison sentence for aggravated rape and sexual battery, says Banks was with Winston and Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby on the night in question, the three took one Uber ride together with a female driver to a club, and Winston left the club alone in an Uber with a different female driver. Did the NFL and Bucs already know this information?
We don't have a good answer to this question.
If there were two rides, is the allegation from the first or second driver?
Winston and Darby have talked previously about only one ride with three passengers — neither have said who the third passenger was — and that they were in the back seat. That would seem to be the first ride mentioned by Banks' lawyer, Mark Scruggs. The accuser has said the groping happened during a one-passenger ride with only Winston, which would be the second ride Scruggs mentioned. These are things the NFL likely already knows from its investigation.
Would Uber records shed light on any of this?
Uber records are private and not subject to media requests. The accuser would know the timeline of her ride. Uber records would show who the driver was and which rider paid, but they wouldn't reflect the identity of or the number of passengers. That would have to come from the driver's recollection. It is known that the accuser immediately reported an issue to her supervisors and that Winston's account was suspended.
The accuser says the groping occurred while they were waiting in a drive-through at a Mexican restaurant. The majority of fast-food restaurants have security cameras on their drive-throughs, right?
The restaurant was contacted in November to find out if it did have cameras. It said it didn't have any exterior video cameras, let alone ones that might still have video from 20 months earlier.
If Banks is a friend of Darby's and Darby is a close friend of Winston's as well as a former FSU teammate, why would Darby expose Winston to bad optics/negatives by allowing them to be in the same car?
Even if Winston didn't know who Banks was, Darby didn't do Winston any favors by having him in the same car with Banks, who was facing rape charges at the time, knowing Winston had been accused of rape while at Florida State. For seven months it has been puzzling why Winston and Darby would not publicly name the third passenger, especially because Winston was adamant in his statement that nothing happened in the car.
How has Friday night's news shifted public opinion about Winston?
We posted a Twitter poll on Friday afternoon, asking fans how the news of his suspension had changed their perspective on Winston's status as the Bucs' franchise quarterback. After 600 votes (before Friday's news), 71 percent had chosen "nothing changes at all" or "disappointed but keep him," with 18 percent saying they were "not sure if he's the guy" and 12 percent saying "Bucs need to move on."
How does the news of Jameis Winston's suspension change your perspective on his status as the Bucs' franchise quarterback?— Greg Auman (@gregauman) June 22, 2018
In the final 800 votes of the same poll, mostly after the news broke, the positive results were at 60 percent, and the "Bucs need to move on" represented 21 percent of the votes.