ESPN — An allegation by a former University of Tennessee trainer who accused NFL star Peyton Manning of pressing his buttocks and genitals against her face while she examined his ankle was cataloged in 1996 by a sexual assault crisis center worker as “sexual assault/abuse,” according to documents reviewed by Outside the Lines.
Less than three hours after the Feb. 29, 1996, training room incident, then-trainer Jamie Naughright called a Knoxville sexual assault crisis center hotline and said she had been victimized that evening by a “very well-known public figure … an athlete at UT” and that she had already reported the incident to her supervisor.
According to the document, Naughright did not name Manning and did not want to discuss details of the assault over the phone because she “feared for her job, worried and feared for her life.” Notes written by the crisis center worker quote Naughright as saying, “I can’t believe this … sense there will be a cover-up.” …
The document from Naughright’s call to the crisis center is buried in more than a thousand pages of court documents that were part of a 2002 libel and defamation lawsuit she filed after Manning and his father, Archie, published a book that described the incident as a “mooning” and referred to Naughright (though not by name) as having a vulgar mouth.
I’m going to say something I haven’t had much cause to over the last year or so. And it’ll probably feel sore tomorrow morning, but here goes: Kudos to ESPN. This is an outstanding piece of journalism, and I applaud the effort.
The article goes on to say how the supervisor Dr. Naughright reported the (alleged) assault to was head trainer Mike Rollo. And how Rollo advised her not to go to the police, then testified under oath in a deposition that not only was she genuinely, sincerely upset that night (which was unusual, given that she had always rolled with the jock culture of a major D1 athletic program), but that she never called it a “mooning.” That word, he admitted, came from him. And that she had witnessed “moonings” before and they didn’t bother her in the least. Again, she was no stranger to working with testosterone-fueled, 19-year-old morons.
And ESPN deserves all the credit in the world because Peyton Manning is as holy a sacred cow as they have in Bristol. For almost 20 years the Manning Apology Machine has been firing on all cylinders, excusing his terrible play in big games, his ties to HGH, the bullying/buying off of Charlie Sly and, of course, this incident with Dr. Naughright. So it’s to ESPN’s credit it dug deep on this part of the story because it is truly damning to its Chosen One.
There’s no way for the Manning apologists to polish this turd, no matter how hard they’ll try. Women who are immersed in the environment of a big school athletic program don’t call sexual assault crisis hotlines whenever some dope shows his ass cheeks to some other dope. Gold-digging opportunists (as she’s accused of being by some media bottom-feeders) don’t refuse to name their attacker. And there’s no reason to believe Mike Rollo would have perjured himself if the “mooning” alibi actually came from her.
In court, they have a form of evidence known as an “excited utterance.” It refers to the words the alleged victim said immediately after the incident in question. A 911 call. Statements said to the police when they arrive on the scene. Upset calls to a sexual assault crisis hotline. It’s a way of giving weight to what a person said before they had time to reflect, be intimidated or be bought off.
The fact that Jamie Naughright was so traumatized by what went on between herself and Peyton Manning that she’d make that call is a terrible look for him. And one that won’t easily be explained away by his people. Nor, shockingly, by ESPN. It’ll be interesting to see if after this he has any defenders in the press at all. Because the more we find out about this guy, the worse a human being he seems.