In 2003, Christine Brennan wrote a column on Peyton Manning. The column was not about Manning’s merits as a football player, but rather, an alleged sexual assault incident in 1996, when Manning was a sophomore at the University of Tennessee.
When Brennan wrote the column, there wasn’t much of a reaction – and if there was, Brennan doesn’t remember it.
“I don’t really recall any reaction back then,” the USA Today columnist said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Of course, there was not a Twitter, there was no Facebook, social media did not exist – so it was the old-fashioned way. You wrote about something, it went out there in a newspaper and there it was. . . . I don’t remember any reaction at all. The Manning book had come out, and for me, it was bizarre that Manning brought it all back up in this book, this father-son book about Peyton and Archie Manning (that was) written by them (‘Manning: A Father, His Sons and a Football Legacy’). So, that was weird, and that kind of opened it all up again to us, which is why we pounced and we did what we did. But as far as thinking back on those days, I really remember nothing other than writing it and going, ‘This is terrible, if true, and it’s incredibly troublesome.’”
Manning has been accused of sexually assaulting Dr. Jamie Naughright, then 27, while she examined his foot for a possible injury. According to sworn testimony, he is accused of “forcefully maneuvering his naked testicles and rectum directly” onto Naughright’s face.
Not a great look for a football icon who, for the last 20 years, has endeared himself to the American public.
“I do think one of the interesting pieces in this whole conversation, and it’s fascinating, (is that) whatever people think – whether they believe it, they don’t believe it, they’e outraged, they’re happy it’s finally out – is the sense that we’re looking at this now through the prism of 2016 America,” Brennan said. “We’ve gone through the Ray Rice video, the things that happened in September 2014, and I do think it’s a post-Ray Rice world that we’re looking at this through. So this prism of looking at it now, even though it’s from a long time ago, I think, looks bad. It looks really bad for Peyton Manning. The allegation, even if he’s just mooning the female trainer that’s helping him with his feet – no matter how you look at it, that would be the best possible scenario for Manning. It just doesn’t look good, especially when you throw in the fact that we’re talking about Peyton Manning.
“I think the shock value is also something that’s driving this story,” Brennan continued. “Because it’s so unlikely that you would be talking about Peyton Manning. I’ve had high school and college friends email me and say, ‘Wait a minute, Peyton Manning? We’re talking about Peyton Manning?’ So I think that’s part of it and then this prism of post-Ray Rice, domestic violence, sexual assault – the things we’re still concerned about with the NFL and throughout society – and it’s being looked at through that prism.”