The women's group, UltraViolet, released a statement Tuesday calling for Papa John's pizza and Nationwide Insurance to drop quarterback Peyton Manning as a spokesman. Manning regularly appears in TV commercials for the two companies.
Details regarding Manning allegedly sexually assaulting a female trainer at the University of Tennessee in 1996 were made public last weekend in a New York Daily News column and Manning has been mentioned in a civil lawsuit against the University of Tennessee alleging violation of the Title IX statute.
“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," said Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, in a statement.
"While it is outrageous that the University of Tennessee chose to turn a blind eye to sexual violence by student athletes like Manning, it would be flat out unacceptable for the NFL and major companies like Nationwide Insurance and Papa John’s Pizza to continue to stand with Manning in light of emerging evidence.
"The NFL should thoroughly investigate this incident before allowing Manning to play or work in NFL again. 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.”
Former Indianapolis Colts GM Bill Polian defended Manning Tuesday on ESPN Radio.
"On the document that has been referred to on numerous blog sites that I’ve seen, is a 74-page document written by the lawyers of a young lady who sued Peyton and his dad for defamation,” Polian said. “I am not aware of how that suit was settled or what the outcome of the suit was, and I haven’t read anything about that. But this is a document that was an advocacy document, allegations, if you will, that were made by the person’s lawyer years ago about an incident that took place 20 years ago and has now surfaced obviously at the behest of that lawyer or his client when Peyton is in the news and arguably receiving lots and lots of positive press.”