On Tuesday, the women’s group Ultraviolet called for advertisers to drop Peyton Manning as their spokesman, citing an alleged incident from 1996 in which Manning supposedly exposed himself to a female trainer at the University of Tennessee.
Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, stated, “When institutions like the University of Tennessee tacitly condone violence against women by ignoring cases of sexual assault by student-athletes, it perpetuates a dangerous culture of violence that ultimately hurts women everywhere. Nationwide Insurance and Papa John’s Pizza must show their customers that they will never stand for sexual violence — and suspend their relationships with Manning pending further investigation.”
Last week, six women filed a lawsuit against the University of Tennessee naming Manning as part of a culture of sexual harassment on campus.
Conflicting versions of the alleged incident involving Manning and former trainer Dr. Jamie Naughright have been offered. Naughright’s version, gleaned from her attorney’s documents, was delineated in The New York Daily News:
Naughright, at that point the university’s director of health and wellness, was in a training room, examining what she thought might be a possible stress fracture in Manning’s foot. At 6 feet, 5 inches, his feet dangled off the edge of the table. Manning allegedly then proceeded to scoot down the training table while Naughright examined his foot. At that point, she said, he forcefully maneuvered his naked testicles and rectum directly on her face with his penis on top of her head. Shocked, disgusted, and offended, Naughright pushed Manning away, removing her head out from under him (see pages 14-15). Within hours, she reported the incident to the Sexual Assault Crisis Center in Knoxville.
The report in the Daily News also cited alleged attempts by the Manning family to cover up the incident, as Manning claimed he was “mooning” another player, and the 2002 lawsuit in which Naughright sued Peyton Manning, his father Archie, and a ghostwriter for defamation.
Yet, as Sports Illustrated pointed out, the back and forth between in the case between Naughright and Manning may leave room for doubt as to where the truth lies.
SI wrote, “As supporting evidence, Naughright included a sworn statement by the player Manning allegedly mooned, Malcolm Saxon. Saxon said that although he originally supported Manning’s account—that Manning mooned Saxon—he wanted to own up and make clear that it did not occur as Manning had characterized. Saxon, however, offers a vague recanting and does not say that Manning made contact with Naughright.”
SI noted, “Manning’s legal team also included an affidavit signed by Naughright in 1996 concerning the ’96 incident. Although she describes Manning as behaving in a gross and offensive manner, she does not describe Manning as making any physical contact with her.”
That affidavit read, “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.”
The two parties reached a settlement on Dec. 3, 2003; the court gave final approval on Jan. 12, 2004, dismissing the case.
In 2005, Naughright claimed Manning had violated provisions of the settlement by claims made in ESPN’s “ESPN Classic Sports Century: Peyton Manning.”
Naughright’s lawyers argued:
[ESPN’s show on Manning] contained a segment which depicted her photographically, rehashed issues which took place at the University of Tennessee, statements from Manning’s book and had juxtaposed thereafter statements by Manning that some people in the past had tried to take advantage of him or embarrass him. Thus, Naughright had again been the subject of an attack by innuendo.
Manning contended he had never mentioned Naughright in the ESPN broadcast. He then claimed Naughright had violated the settlement by sharing settlement-privileged information with Florida-Times Union columnist Mike Freeman which he utilized in his column.