Why Attention Is Warranted For Peyton Manning's 20-Year-Old Sexual Harassment Scandal

| by Nicholas Roberts
Peyton ManningPeyton Manning

After the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50, Shaun King of the New York Daily News wrote an article which brought back into the public view a 20-year-old sexual assault case regarding quarterback Peyton Manning and an athletic trainer during his time at the University of Tennessee.

Many in the Internet sports world immediately denounced King's article after it went online, calling it one-sided -- the article contained a 74-page defamation suit brought by athletic trainer Dr. Jamie Naughwright against Manning -- and attacking King's credentials. The tone of many of these articles seemed to suggest "who cares?" or "why should we care about this now?"

Dismissing these allegations as something the public should not care about in 2016 is hardly a sufficient response to King's scathing article. Besides the fact that the conduct described in the 74-page document is often immature at best and downright despicable at worst, new details from the case may not have come to light if it were not for King's article.

It has long been alleged that Manning stuck his genitals in Naughwright's face in 1996 while she was examining his foot in a locker room, SB Nation reports. This was the central incident from where the defamation suit comes from and eventually led to Naughwright leaving the university in a $300,000 settlement in 1997.

Manning has never denied that some version of the incident took place, but described the "mooning" as a much more lighthearted fashion in his 2001 self-titled book, "Manning," and described his action as seemingly something "she'd have laughed at, considering the environment, or shrugged off as harmless."

In fact, the suit alleges that it was statements made by Manning himself in that same book that allowed this case to drag on for another four years. He had said that Naughwright had a "vulgar mouth," and listed a series of evidential quotes in his book which Naughwright says eventually led to her demotion and firing at Florida Southern College.  Those alleged "vulgar" quotes were denied to have ever been said by four other Tennessee athletes whom Manning talks about in relation to the incident.

In addition to these details, which undoubtedly deserve attention regardless of how old the case is, new details came to light with the release of the article.  

Naughwright had actually alleged harassment against more people than Manning alone, and altogether listed 27 instances of sexual harassment she'd experienced during her time at University of Tennessee, Deadspin reports.

Another important detail was that Malcolm Saxon, a University of Tennessee cross country runner, said he lost eligibility as a result of refuting Manning's story.  

Finally, Naughwright claims in the suit that she was asked to blame a black athlete for the incident and resulting leave.

Those are pretty explosive details, which, if true, suggest widespread institutional problems beyond Manning's conduct.  The case has never truly been resolved and there was never any unambiguous finding of facts on either side, and was largely absent from media coverage after Manning and Naughwright reached a series of settlements.

The 74-page document begs the question of what really happened, especially in sections that have been heavily redacted. Ultimately, denunciations of King and his credentials for bringing up this story fail to recognize why it is important story and why it has gained traction on the Internet 20 years after the fact. These are questions that need to be discussed and eventually answered, not ignored.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: New York Daily NewsSB Nation / Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall/Flickr

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