Athletes are too subject media scrutiny

Athletes+are+too+subject+media+scrutiny

Bill Leftwich

A Volunteer fan born and raised in Tennessee, I grew up idolizing Peyton Manning. When the sexual harassment case involving Manning came out, I was heartbroken. This story has gotten a tremendous amount of national attention recently.

Jamie Naughright, claimed that as a football trainer for the University of Tennessee in 1996, 19-year old Peyton Manning exposed himself in a threatening way that could be interpreted as sexual harassment.

However, as I dug deep into the details of the story, I began to wonder how a factually unsupportable accusation made thirteen years ago, became  such a top topic in the world of sports today.

An essential and largely questioned detail in this case is whether contact was made during the incident. In 1996, Naughright signed an affidavit which stated that no physical contact was made during the exposure. She also mentioned in an interview in Tennessee shortly after making her claim that no contact was made. In this affidavit, Naughright explicitly explains that she was “working on [Manning’s] foot when she heard laughter and looked up to see his exposed rear end and pushed him away.”

Manning in his book, Manning: A Father, His Sons, and a Football Legacy, describes the incident which took place that day: “One day I was in the training room and a track athlete I knew made some off-color remark that I felt deserved a colorful (i.e. Cooper [Manning]-like) response. I turned my back in the athlete’s direction and dropped the seat of my pants […] I did it thinking the trainer wasn’t where she would see (Manning 272).”

This sexual harassment case becomes even less believable when in 2003, Naughright revealed a drastically different story which greatly exaggerated the innocent prank. She describes there being explicit contact made in the incident and him hostilely directing the action at her. Having clearly changed a critical part of her story, shouldn’t Naughright be on record for perjury? Shouldn’t sports networks and writers favor a story from 1996 rather than a 2003 story, since it is will naturally be less affected by memory? The final piece of information which dismisses this senseless story is the settlement she reached with the University of Tennessee for $300,000.

In this report she cites Manning and other incidents of sexual harassment involving others. Had Manning made the contact she falsified in 2003, the case would have become a much more serious case of sexual assault, subject to a much costlier payout by the university.

I believe that the Manning incident was Naughright attempting to add to a long list of instances to max out her payout, though it was not as severe as the other claims made in the lawsuit. Why would a case which had been dormant for seven years be brought back to light? It is important to note that in 2003 during the time of the case, Manning was months away from signing a landmark $99.2 million, seven-year contract, making him, at the time, the highest paid quarterback ever. Perhaps Naughright saw an opportunity to profit.

For whatever reason, there has been a recent campaign by the media to bring down high profiled athletes. It all started with the Tom Brady “deflategate” story. Many sports journalists essentially began to question a man’s integrity for deflated balls used in a game they won by over five touchdowns.

We saw this same senseless media attack in the story of Cam Newton walking out on the press conference after the Super Bowl. People called him a sore loser, but they ignore the fact that he could hear the Broncos players’ celebratory interviews, due to the poor postgame media setup. And now the attack has shifted to another all-time great athlete, Peyton Manning. People are not perfect. So why does the media constantly scrutinize these athletes, looking for the minute mistakes they’ve made, when their accomplishments far surpass these flaws.