Add Peyton Manning to the list of male celebrities who have been accused of predatory behavior. The accusations themselves are far from new. They originate from an incident that occurred in the mid-1990s and were mentioned in a USA Today Story in 2003. The story was largely forgotten as Manning continued his successful football career which will likely land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Specifically, Peyton Manning allegedly placed his naked genitals on the face of athletic trainer Dr. Jamie Naughright. The New York Daily News story which renewed attention on the accusations mentioned two things that may be construed as defense for this behavior. First, Manning claimed the incident happened as he mooned a teammate. Second, in his autobiography, Manning accused Dr. Naughright of frequently using vulgar language. The story brings doubt on these two matters, but the real issue is that neither is anything close to a valid defense.
The teammate Peyton Manning claims to have been mooning said that was not the case. Even if it is true, however, that is completely inappropriate behavior. This type of behavior is quite common in hypermasculine environments like football locker rooms. This does not make it excusable. Even if Manning’s teammate was comfortable with being mooned, doing so in the presence of another person, regardless of their sex, is inexcusable.
As to Dr. Naughright’s alleged use of vulgar language, that is blatant victim-blaming. This woman’s character is irrelevant to what allegedly happened to her. She seems to have an impeccable reputation, but even if that were not true, she did not deserve to be sexually assaulted. Manning’s own statements have made it clear that Dr. Naughright did not ask him to touch her with his exposed genitals.
The suffering did not end there for Dr. Jamie Naughright. Months after the incident, she left the University of Tennessee after more than a decade there as a student and staff member. Her career did continue quite successfully until the publication of Manning’s book in 2001. Not long after that, she was let go from her job at Florida Southern College. That also appears to have effectively ended her career in athletic training to which she had dedicated her entire career.
The best case scenario for Peyton Manning is that at the time he was a foolish young man who accidentally touched someone with his genitals. At worst, he intentionally committed a sexual assault. Even worse, Manning could’ve walked away with no damage to his reputation by simply not mentioning it in his book. Instead, he chose to hurt the reputation of Dr. Jamie Naughright. No matter what the case, Dr. Nauhright has had her career ruined for doing nothing wrong.
Dr. Jamie Naughright’s reputation was horribly damaged by Peyton Manning’s accusations. Will Peyton Manning’s reputation suffer a similar fate? The fact that it hasn’t yet seems pretty clear evidence that rape culture is alive and well.