NFL dragging its heels with the Jameis Winston suspension is a disgrace

The origin of the phrase “justice delayed is denied’’ has been lost in the mists of history.

A version of it may go back to William Penn.

But it never seems to go out of style. It certainly describes the NFL’s investigation of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston.

He is still awaiting justice over a groping allegation that became public seven months ago, and only this week learned he will reportedly be suspended for the first three games by the NFL.

That expected announcement is typical of the NFL, suspending him without ruling on the actual accusation, but if Winston didn’t report it he has no defense for violating that league policy.

Whatever the case, a decision should have been made by the NFL long before it finally was.

Buzzfeed broke the news last November that a 26-year-old Uber driver had accused Winston of groping her for three to five seconds on March, 13, 2016, in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The driver has never been identified, and she apparently wants to keep it that way. Buzzfeed called her Kate, and she said she didn’t want to go to the police and become known as the woman groped by Winston.

She did report the incident to Uber officials, though, and his Uber account was suspended.

In her incident report (spelling and grammar are hers), she said, “We stopped to get food at a Mexican drive thru. While we were stopped, out of the blue, this rider reached over and put his fingers on my crotch. It wasn’t accidental, and it was only for a very brief moment. It wasn’t my stomach or my thigh, it was my crotch and I want to be clear about that. I was totally shocked, and I shook him off and just said, what’s up with that? Looking back, I sincerely wish I would have kicked him out but he is apparently a very big athlete in the nfl and he’s very physically imposing, and I was afraid that I’d make him more angry. The rest of the ride proceeded without incident. He is NOT safe for other female drivers.’’

She told Buzzfeed she doesn’t want money and came forward because 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,’’ she told Buzzfeed. “If I’m silent, I feel 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,’’ she said.

Winston’s lawyer then issued a denial in his name and said she may have been confused about the number of passengers in the car and who was sitting next to her.

She said he was the only passenger. His former Florida State teammate, Ronald Darby, has said he was in the car and nothing happened.

She said a small group of men excitedly told her that she would be chauffeuring someone famous that night – Winston. She said he immediately behaved poorly, in part, by shouting homophobic slurs to pedestrians.

So it is a classic “he said, she said” situation.

But the NFL took seven long months to investigate before finally revealing the suspension with a leak to ESPN.

Why?

There aren’t that many people to interview, starting with the alleged victim and Winston, the five people she said he told about the incident and Darby and anyone else who says they were in the car.

That takes seven months?

Granted, “he said, she said’’ cases are difficult to judge, although Winston had more than his share of problems at Florida State, including a sexual assault charge. He settled a civil lawsuit with his accuser.

He hasn’t had any previous problems with the Bucs, proposed to his longtime girlfriend, Breion Allen, and has started a charitable foundation.

I also question the NFL doing its own investigations. We have a criminal justice system for that. And their investigations have an “Alice In Wonderland” quality, where they appear to decide the victim is guilty regardless of the evidence. Deflategate, anyone?

The NFL policy says it’s not even necessary to be found not guilty to receive punishment from the league. Players, coaches, team officials and owners are held to a higher standard.

If you enter the NFL, you apparently leave your rights at the door.

But if the NFL is going to have investigations, it shouldn’t take seven months to resolve a “he said, she said’’ allegation or a failure to report charge.

That’s just plain absurd.

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