Tennessee Sexual Assault Scandal Threatens Peyton Manning’s Legacy

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Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was poised to go down as one of the greats after his record breaking Super Bowl win set himself up for a “story book” retirement. But now Manning is struggling to keep his clean-cut image intact after 20-year-old sexual assault allegations from his time at the University of Tennessee were brought back into the national spotlight thanks to a recent lawsuit.

The 39-year-old football star was cited in a lawsuit filed by six anonymous women last Tuesday who claim the University of Tennessee violated Title IX by fostering a “hostile sexual environment” that allowed for sexual assault and rape allegations to be met with “deliberate indifference.”

To reiterate that point, testimony was included from Dr. Jamie Naughright, a highly regarded Tenessee trainer, who claims that in 1996 Manning forcefully maneuvered his naked testicles and rectum directly on her face with his penis on top of her head while she was examining him for a foot injury. According to ESPN, Dr. Naughright reported the incident, but Manning was never investigated by the police. She went on to file a lawsuit against him, but in 1997 it was settled and she was forced to leave the university.

Manning apparently wrote about the encounter from his perspective in 2000 in an autobiography titled “Manning: A Father, His Sons and A Football Legacy.” In the book he denies the sexual assault allegations saying instead that he was “mooning” track athlete Malcolm Saxon, he also describes Dr, Naughright as having a “vulgar mouth.”

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Title IX is a federal law that bans gender discrimination at schools that receive federal funding. If the University of Tennessee officials did fail to properly investigate sexual assault allegations in a deliberate attempt to protect student athletes, that would make them in violation of the law.

But Manning wasn’t the only athlete named in the new lawsuit. According to ESPN, the lawsuit names 10 former Tennessee players in total, including Manning and former football players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams. The latter two are both awaiting separate trials for aggravated rape charges.

Some people have come to Manning’s defense, criticizing the allegations against Manning based on how old they are, but, as ESPN writer Sarah Spain puts it, the matter deserves a second look as more details surface. For example, in the 74-paged court document  Saxon, the supposed recipient of the “mooning”, clearly refuted Manning’s story and even told Manning in a letter that he lost his student athlete eligibility over the matter.

Saxon wrote,

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.

These potential revelations are the last thing Manning needed, after already suffering a beating to his image when Al Jazeera alleged he was part of an illegal doping ring in an undercover investigative piece. If the football star does in fact intend on hanging up his cleats for good soon, these accusations may end up a permanent stain on his once-clean image.

Alexis Evans
Alexis Evans is an Assistant Editor at Law Street and a Buckeye State native. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and a minor in Business from Ohio University. Contact Alexis at



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