Fayette County, GA – This Oakland blogger had the honor of covering another NFL Spring League Meeting, this one held last week in Atlanta. While how the NFL’s latest news in the seemingly ongoing story of the National Anthem Protest policy was on the league’s agenda, and focused on by most of the media, as was true for the awarding of the 2019 NFL Draft and Super Bowls for 2023 and 2024, one man was at the Whitney Hotel for another reason.
Ira Kaufman is a long-time NFL news reporter, and when this blogger says “long-time”, meaning for over 40-years. He’s best known for his work with the Tampa Tribune, he’s now the main columnist for the great blog Joe Bucs Fan. And in that guise, Ira was on a mission, and not the kind like the one Blake, played by Alec Baldwin in the 1984 classic Glen Gary Glen Ross was on when he represented Mitch and Murray and gave a speech that’s generally considered one of the best scenes in movie history.
Nah, Ira, who’s become a friend since we met in at the 2015 NFL Annual Meeting (and where he was part of an epic conversation with the media and then Bucs Head Coach Lovie Smith on whether the Pirates should draft the Florida State quarterbacking star that you should watch at this link below), was in Buckhead to get NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, or someone connected with The Shield, to give him an update on the investigation of Jameis Winston and the female Uber driver.
Here’s that video with Ira and Coach Smith (and me, and others)…
According to Buzz Feed’s Talal Ansari, who broke the story ON November 17, 2017, and is not a regular NFL reporter but a guy based in New York who covers stories that are both political and senational (Did you know a judge is considering dismissing a lawsuit against white supremacists for violence in Charlottesville?), a female Uber driver named “Kate” was called to what Ansari calls a “lively” party scene (he wasn’t there). It was in “downtown Scottsdale, Arizona”, according to Ansari in Buzz Feed, “(where she was) to pick up a passenger around 2 a.m. on Sunday March 13, 2016.” Ansari writes that, “Kate told BuzzFeed News that a small group of men excitedly told her that she would be chauffeuring someone famous that night — Jameis Winston, 2013 Heisman Trophy winner and now quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.” (Buzz Feed story link is here.)
This is where, as seems to be common with these Jameis Winston matters, things get real fishy. How did the men know that she was picking up Jameis? Where was the so-called party? What was the adress? That also is not explained. Nonetheless, the story continues that these unidentified men “placed Jameis in the front passenger seat.”
Again, nothing is explained as to who these men are, or why they were handling Jameis. We are just asked to believe a story that “these men” where involved in putting Tampa Bay’s franchise quarterback in the front seat of an Uber car driven by a woman named Kate, who was already informed that he was not just precious cargo in the form of an NFL Player, but by that information, obviously had to get the idea that Winston was of man of some means.
Ansari says this was a “small group of men” but who they were, he does not tell us at all. (I sent an email asking Ansari questions the week the story broke, but he never answered it).
Kate says Jameis “behaved poorly, and shouted what she says were homephobic slurs at pedestrians. She also claims he was the only passenger she had in the car.
According to Kate, Jameis asked to stop for food, so they drove up to a fast food place called Los Betos Mexican Food. Buzzfeed reports that Kate said “he reached over and he just grabbed my crotch,” then “alledging” that he had his hand there for “three to five seconds” until she said “what’s up with that,” then he took his hand away.
BuzzFeed’s Ansari then called Jameis Winston’s representative Russ Spielman, who reportedly said “We categorically deny this allegation. 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 in to this is that his uber account was used to call the ride.” Mr. Spielman also had not seen a letter from the NFL on the Uber matter that Ansari had, remarking, again, according to BuzzFeed, that “I don’t have a comment on that, what you’re hearing is the first time I’m hearing about that.”
Winston posted this statement on Twitter:
“”A news organization has published a story about me regarding an alleged incident involving a female Uber driver from approximately two years ago. 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.”
The Tampa Bay Bucs issued this statement “”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.”
Kate claimed she didn’t want money, but just told BuzzFeed at the time that “she wanted to tell the truth “about a powerful man who felt entitled to my body when all I wanted to do was my job. I have been empowered by my sisters who have forged this path by speaking up, and I must do my part to make it a little more well traveled. If I’m silent, I fear that further harm will come to other women, if it hasn’t already. He sexually assaulted me, and I have every right to tell the damn truth about it.”
And now here’s where this story gets confusing. BuzzFeed reports that Kate reported the incident “soon after it happened”, and claim that she wrote “apparently 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.” Then Kate wrote, according to BuzzFeed that “He is NOT safe for other drivers.”
BuzzFeed’s says it has reviewed the incident report to Uber, but how did Ansari come to see it? While reporters aren’t required to explain who their sources are, it would give a more complete explaination if we knew who passed information to Ansari? The Buzz Feed reporters doesn’t say that Kate gave it to him.
And the date of the report Kate filed is really confusing. BuzzFeed’s Ansari has written that the incident happened after she was “to pick up a passenger around 2 a.m. on Sunday March 13, 2016.” Ok, but the photo of the text message report to Uber has the time stamp of 1:41 AM Sunday March 13, 2016, which is well before 2 a.m. For the tort to take place, it would have had to happen well before 1:41 AM, because then she would have been able to stop and process what happened, and write the report. If one thinks about it, the timing of this is off by at least an hour.
Also, the text message report just mentions the passenger, but does not specify who the person is in the seat. And then it gets even more confusing, because BuzzFeed posts another photo of a text that’s partly reacted, and then has a time stamp of 3:16 AM that same Sunday March 13, 2016, and then uses Jameis Winston’s name.
The issue of timing was never addressed in the Buzz Feed story. Ansari immediately went into recounting the Erica Kinsman matter without any more attention paid to addressing the holes in the story he wrote about the Uber driver.
And on the matter of timing, if the story happened on Sunday, March 13th 2016, why did Buzz Feed run the story over a year later on November 17th, 2017 – complete with the timing errors? And what about Winston’s side of the story?
Winston claims that he was in the back seat and that his friend of Florida State Ronald Darby was with him while another friend that’s not named (for some reason) was in the front seat. Darby released this statement that was reported by ESPN: “I felt the need to come forward and clarify some inaccurate accounts of the evening of March 13, 2016 when myself, a friend and Jameis Winston took an Uber ride in Arizona. There were three of us in the car, not just one as has been reported. Myself and Jameis were in the backseat. I am confident that nothing inappropriate in nature happened in the car that evening and Jameis did not have any physical contact with the Uber driver. The accusations are just not true.”
And how about, of all people, the same lawyer who represented Erica Kinsman, John Clune, representing Kate? This is a Florida-based lawyer who is involved in a case surrounding an alledged incident in Arizona, and with his client, who lives there, not in Florida – and Clume’s based in Colorado. It’s a safe bet a person driving an Uber doesn’t make enough money to retain Mr. Clume on her own. Clume never said he was taking on the case pro bono, and it’s not reported that he did, anywhere to date. While Clume does sit on the Rocky Mountain Victim Law Center, which does take on such cases pro bono, Clume mearly sits on its board – there’s no indication the Center’s involved here and on a pro bono basis. How did Clume come to be involved here, and why? Those questions no one in the media has asked or answered, until now.
Given the news that NFL Players like Reuben Foster were the focus of false reports of, in his case, domestic violence, it’s fair to ask questions that lead the public to a true and correct story of what happened. On April 16th of this year, Winston said the NFL had not interviewed him. Given the problems with the timing of events in the story, it’s not hard to see why it’s taking so long. Something is wrong.
And ESPN’s Jenna Laine reported that Kate did not contact either the Scottsdale Police Department or the Phoenix Police Department. So, if this is a criminal case, and Kate’s not seeking money, why then were the police not called? You can’t have a criminal case without police involvement, including investigators. Did Kate have something to hide? Given that it was in the wee hours of the morning when she drove her Uber car, had she taken the wheel after drinking or smoking a substance she didn’t want to be caught with by law enforcement? So far, it seems only the NFL is doing the investigating, and it’s not talking. But, and again, it’s details like that which casue a reasonable person to ask a ton of questions.
I’m very curious to know why and how Buzz Feed, which is a political news outfit, was, as it looks, selected to cover the story and not an NFL beat writer? Why did so many conservative pundits jump on this story on Twitter when it broke?
Why doesnt the NFL do more to protect it’s players from potential harm by wrongdoers who may be out for political gain? Is this a part of a PR plot to diminish the image of black players for fear the NFL would become too black? These are questions that must be answered, if only to be addressed and then dismissed.
Ira Kaufman wants answers. The Bucs want answers. Bucs fans want answers. NFL fans want answers. And America should want answers, too.
Something is amiss with this story.