Last Thursday, ESPN reported that Jameis Winston is facing an imminent three-game suspension this upcoming 2018 NFL season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy stemming from a March 2016 incident in which an Uber driver alleged that he grabbed her crotch.
Days later, however, and the league still hasn’t announced the reported suspension of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback. Why? Well, sources told ESPN that the delay could spell the further deliberation over whether to increase the suspension of the three games or even decrease it.
Whenever the league does make its announcement, rest assured that fans and critics alike will be watching closely to see if the shield gets it right following a history of notorious bungles when dealing with players’ domestic violence or sexual assault suspensions.
This marks the second sexual assault accusation against Winston, 24. The alleged March 2016 incident was first reported on by BuzzFeed last November, when the alleged victim — a woman identifying herself as Kate — said that Winston groped her crotch at the drive-thru of a Scottsdale, Arizona restaurant at 2 a.m. Winston, the top overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, denied the allegation against him, with his camp even issuing a statement saying that “the driver was confused as to the number of passengers in the car and who was sitting next to her,” as reported by ESPN.
But the same ESPN story has one of Winston’s friends saying the QB was the sole rider on the Uber trip, while another one of his friends claims that Winston was one of three passengers in the vehicle.
Now, we await to see how the NFL handles this.
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In July 2014, the NFL suspended then-Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for two games following a February 2014 domestic violence incident between he and his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer. However, a video of Rice punching Palmer in a hotel elevator surfaced that September on TMZ, paving the way for the Ravens to cut the running back and the NFL to suspend him indefinitely. Many Critics and fans alike believed that the league should have suspended Rice indefinitely back in July of that year and definitely when it seen TMZ’s initial video showing Rice dragging Palmer off the elevator. (Rice did marry Palmer, but has yet to play in the NFL since).
In September 2014, the NFL placed then-Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy on its exempt list after he was arrested that May for allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend and threatening to kill her. Putting Hardy on the exempt list meant that he could continue to get his salary, although he wasn’t allowed to play. In April 2015, the NFL suspended Hardy for 10 games without pay due to the incident, but an arbitrator reduced that suspension to four games in July 2015.
Although the domestic-violence charges were expunged from Hardy’s record in November 2015, Deadspin released photos of his bruised ex-girlfriend the very next day, leaving people to say that the NFL should have suspended him indefinitely initially or even imposed a lifetime ban.
In October 2014, the NFL hired Lisa Friel, a former sex-crimes prosecutor, to help erect a revamped policy on domestic violence. She investigated the Winston case. Now, we’ll see if Winston is on the the receiving end of a three-game suspension or more.
If suspended, as expected, ESPN reported that Winston might opt to not appeal the ruling, reasoning that his salary is slated to be over $20.9 million in 2019 as opposed to only $705,000 this season.