According to this article, it’s been widely known, but almost never reported, that Manning sexually assaulted a woman while he was a student athlete at Tennessee. But worse than that, he and his father then went on a multi-year crusade to destroy her career and assassinate her character, even after settling a lawsuit that contained an order saying neither side could discuss the case publicly. Only the victim has adhered to that order. I do sort of wonder why this isn’t more widely known, or even why it hasn’t been posted on Deadspin or Jezebel or Gawker. The NY Daily News seems like an unusual place for a story like this to break.
Thirteen years ago, USA Today obtained 74 pages of explosive court documents on Peyton Manning, Archie Manning, the University of Tennessee, and Florida Southern College that revealed allegations of a sexual-assault scandal, cover up, and smear campaign of the victim that was so deep, so widespread and so ugly that it would’ve rocked the American sports world to its core. Yet USA Today never released those documents for reasons I can’t explain.
Mel Antonen, now a baseball writer for Sports Illustrated, wrote about the documents for the paper on Nov. 3, 2003. Three days later, Christine Brennan, longtime sportswriter for USA Today wrote an op-ed about Peyton Manning and the documents entitled, “Do you really know your sports hero?” but the scandal pretty much died right there.
Facebook wouldn’t be invented for three more months. Twitter didn’t come for three more years. The word “viral” was still only being used to describe the spread of infectious diseases.
But when the documents were sent to me on Tuesday, two days after the Super Bowl, it was immediately clear to me that had the world actually known what they contained, it’s doubtful that Peyton would have ever been the “swell, golly, gee-whiz” pitchman for Nationwide Insurance, DirecTV or Papa John’s Pizza. Certainly, evangelical op-eds calling him “squeaky clean” and positioning Peyton as the arbiter of all things good and decent in the world simply wouldn’t be the case.
But as his career winds down, we’re left to grapple with the reality that there is credible evidence that Peyton and the Manning family knowingly, willingly, wantonly ruined the good name and career of Dr. Jamie Naughright, a respected scholar, speaker, professor, and trainer of some of the best athletes in the world.
On the morning after Super Bowl 50, I posted a picture on my Facebook page of Cam Newton smiling and embracing Peyton Manning after the game and simply asked why that warm photo wasn’t being talked about instead of Cam being frustrated at the post-game press conference. It has since been shared more than 234,000 times and seen by more than 20 million people. It now has nearly 6,000 comments, but on that morning, just one leaped out at me, which mentioned something to the effect of “Peyton sexually assaulted a girl in college.”