Editor's note: This story contains NSFW, explicit language
Peyton Manning made it through the first 18 years of his NFL career with not a sniff of off-field controversy. In the past two months, however, arguably the most popular athlete in North American sports has dealt with allegations of HGH use and sexual assault.
The latter was brought to light this weekend by the New York Daily News after simply being a longstanding Internet rumor. Columnist Shaun King says in the piece that Manning's clean-cut image is a complete fabrication and is built on lies. King makes public 74 pages of court documents that USA Today received in 2003 but never released.
The most damning allegations against Manning involve him sexually assaulting a widely respected athletic trainer at the University of Tennessee, Jamie Naughright, in the mid-1990s. From the Daily News piece:
In the fall of 1994, Peyton Manning entered the University of Tennessee football program as the already-famous son of legendary college and pro football star Archie Manning. That semester, his first on campus, some type of incident involving Manning and Naughright occurred. By request of the counsel of Peyton Manning, the details of that incident have been sealed and three-and-a-half pages concerning it have been redacted from the permanent record (see pages 11-14).
Whatever happened, Naughright claims it colored and informed the professional interactions between Naughright and Manning from that time on and caused Manning to consistently harbor anger toward her. Yet in spite of the drama, Naughright served as the medical director for the NCAA Track and Field Championships in 1995 and was a member of the training staff for the Olympics trials for the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
To say that her problems with Peyton Manning boiled over in 1996 would be understating it.
On Feb. 29 of that year, 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 (see page 18).
According to the court records, Manning initially denied the incident ever took place. It was a calculated risk. He was the star quarterback, a Heisman trophy hopeful, and a likely No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. While Naughright was now a respected member of the staff, Manning was the star, the savior of Tennessee football. It was his word against hers.
The alleged "first incident" between Manning and Naughright remains a complete mystery.
Also in the piece, Naughright is said to have been called derogatory names by Tennessee athletic staff and athletes. She was routinely called "cunt bumper," in reference to many believing that she was a lesbian. In the Daily News piece, it is said that Naughright is straight.
King also goes into great detail in the piece about how the Manning family has attempted to cover-up the incidents. King says that the Manning family made stuff up out of thin air in order to lower Naughright's credibility.
Soon after the alleged sexual assault, records show that Manning told the school, "I have never approved of Jamie's vulgar language. It has always been my opinion, along with the majority of the team, that Jamie wants to be one of the guys."
To his father, he concocted far worse lies that were torn apart, one by one, when he and others were forced to testify under oath. He told his father, Archie, "she's kind of trashy," and "had the most vulgar mouth of any girl he'd ever seen" and "was unattractive but had big breasts" and had "been out with a bunch of black guys" and "had a toilet mouth."
Under oath, the ghostwriter, John Underwood revealed that Archie Manning suggested to him that Naughright was going into the dorms and having sex with large numbers of black student athletes. After saying that she was up in the dorms with black students, Archie, states:
"And, she'd, she'd, been up in the dorm before, I mean hey, you know, they could have, you know, could have pulled off stuff on her too. Ah, she, toilet mouth, ah Peyton told me he never did like her, but he always did, cause what I'd told him to do, ah, I instructed him to be nice to the tr- … don't ever look down on a trainer or an equipment person you know."
According to the records, attorneys for Naughright drilled person after person, staff member after staff member, asking them to identify an instance where they heard Naughright use vulgar language. Not a single person could do so. One after another, those who claimed she was promiscuous admitted under oath that they didn't have any evidence to support such claims. Instead, everyone, to the person, claimed they had just heard such charges from somebody who heard from somebody that it might be true (see pages 37-40). No one with firsthand knowledge testified to her ever being vulgar or having sexual relationships with student athletes.
The statutes of limitation in Tennessee have expired here and Naughright has already settled a defamation lawsuit with Manning.
Manning won his second Super Bowl title just last week as quarterback of the Denver Broncos. He is expected to retire soon. With so much heat on him currently, regarding not only this Daily News column, but the NFL's investigation into his alleged HGH use - expect Manning to attempt to avoid any grandiose retirement party.
It's worth noting that both the HGH story and this Daily News column were published on holiday weekends, with not as many eyeballs focused on the daily news cycle.