Peyton Manning's reputation has been called into question due to his alleged involvement in a sexual assault during his time at the University of Tennessee.
According to the Tennessean's Anita Wadhwani and Nate Rau:
A sweeping lawsuit filed by six former female students against the University of Tennessee last week argues its athletics department has long condoned a "hostile sexual environment" stretching back to the mid-1990s, citing nearly a dozen instances of former student-athletes accused of sexual assault—including [Manning].
According to Shaun King of the New York Daily News, in court documents from 2003 that were recently obtained, it was alleged that in 1996, Manning sexually assaulted Dr. Jamie Naughright, who was serving as the associate athletic trainer for the Volunteers football program.
Per the document, which was drafted by Naughright's lawyer, when Naughright was examining Manning's foot for a potential stress fracture, he allegedly "forcefully maneuvered his naked testicles and rectum directly on her face with his penis on top of her head." She later reported the incident to the Sexual Assault Crisis Center in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated obtained more documents from the lawsuit, noting the following:
[The complaint] does not refer—at least not explicitly—to Manning placing his rectum on Naughright’s face. In fact, there is no explicit reference to any physical contact by Manning on Naughright. Instead, Naughright refers more generally to Manning "not merely mooning" and that he undertook an additional act "of such an egregious nature as to be beyond the pale."
McCann also referred to an affidavit signed by Naughright in 1996 in which she describes the incident: "He pulled his pants down and exposed himself to me, as I was bent over examining his foot after asking me personal questions. I reported this to my supervisor, who referred to it as 'merely a prank,' and no action was taken in regard to this until after I formally complained."
Manning reportedly denied the incident, while Naughright's superior and athletic trainer Mike Rollo said it was an accident that occurred when Manning mooned teammate Malcolm Saxon.
T.J. Quinn of ESPN reported on Friday that Manning also denied Saxon's claims in a series of direct questioning.
Saxon denied that explanation and claimed that he lost his eligibility at Tennessee for not going along with the story in a letter sent to Manning, according to King:
First, I have stuck to my same story throughout this drama. I told Mike Rollo the next day and Coach [Phillip] Fulmer a week or two afterwards. I had nothing to hide at that point and I have nothing to hide today. I have never been on Jamie's side or on your side [contrary to what the athletic department was telling you and telling her]. I stuck to the truth and I lost my eligibility for it. My redshirt request sat on Mike Rollo's desk for months as the process was going forward. I'm not angry about it anymore, just getting a little tired of it!!
Peyton, you messed up. I still don't know why you dropped your drawers. Maybe it was a mistake, maybe not. But it was definitely inappropriate. Please take some personal responsibility here and own up to what you did. I never understood why you didn't admit to it.
Naughright left the University of Tennessee soon after. She and Manning reportedly agreed to not discuss the alleged incident publicly as part of a settlement.
She later took a job at Florida Southern College, but on May 16, 2001, she received transcripts from a book written by Manning and his father, Archie Manning, titled Manning, in which disparaging things were written about her.
That led to her losing her job at Florida Southern College and also prompted her to file a defamation lawsuit.
Per King, Peyton Manning accused Naughright of regularly using vulgar language, which is something several Tennessee football players and colleagues of Naughright's denied.
Also, Manning ghostwriter John Underwood said under oath that Archie Manning suggested to him that "Naughright was going into the dorms and having sex with large numbers of black student-athletes," which was also never substantiated.
The lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount in 2003, according to King.
While both Mel Antonen and Christine Brennan wrote stories about the documents for USA Today in 2003, per King, many within the media were unaware of the allegations, including ESPN.com's Sarah Spain:
Sarah Spain @SarahSpain
Incredible details I haven't seen anywhere before -- KING: Peyton Manning’s squeaky-clean image was built on lies https://t.co/mgMoAC023B2016-2-13 15:41:37
The details come to light at a time when Manning's NFL future is up in the air after he and the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7. Most expect the 39-year-old to retire, but he has been noncommittal, as he was on the Today Show (h/t WTHR 13):
Whatever the decision is, I have real peace about it. I'm going to enjoy this Super Bowl victory and celebrate with my family and friends. I'll keep doing it for a few more weeks, and then at the appropriate time, I think I'll make a decision. I have to tell you, though, I'm very much at peace with it.
Manning also recently dealt with accusations that he received human growth hormone from the Guyer Institute in Indianapolis while rehabbing his neck injury in 2011.
Manning has denied the allegations, per ESPN.com.
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