Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Manning story: It's all been written before

What was my reaction when I saw Shaun King's "blockbuster" commentary on Peyton Manning last weekend?

A yawn.

Why? Because I've seen it all before. In fact, I've written it all before.

This is old news in a new wrapper. Contrary to the suggestion by some in the national media, it was covered extensively at the time. The suggestion that us local yocals sided with Manning and didn't take the story seriously is patently false.

As sports columnist at The Tennessean at the time, I wrote about it when word surfaced in 1996 of a so-called "mooning" incident involving Manning and a female trainer at the University of Tennessee. I wrote about it when the trainer filed an employment discrimination complaint on Aug. 27, 1996. I wrote about it when UT settled for $300,000 on Aug. 13, 1997.

And when the trainer, Jamie Naughright, filed a defamation lawsuit related to something Manning had written about her in an otherwise forgettable book "Manning," I wrote about it -- a lot.

Court documents related to that case have been around for years. I should know. I'm looking at a stack of them right now -- hundreds of pages of depositions as well as the so-called smoking gun cited in King's column in the New York Daily News, a 74-page "Facts Of The Case" written by the plaintiff's attorney in response to a request for summary judgment.

What King failed to note -- a mistake that has been repeated by others -- is that this is a one-sided argument intended to convince the judge to send the case to trial. The argument was successful because the case was scheduled to go before a jury in December 2003.

And a former colleague of mine at The Tennessean and I planned to go to Florida to cover the trial when we learned the lawsuit had been settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. I wrote about that, too.

Of course, we live in a different media age these days. Someone can get his or her hands on court documents from a 12-year-old case and craft them to fit an agenda. In this case, King's premise is that Manning's image has been built on a lie.

But if you've paid attention over the years, you would realize that Manning has flaws just like the rest of us. His two depositions in the defamation lawsuit expose many of them. He can be petty, vindictive and defensive.

So can I. And so can you. 

The troubling thing here is that Manning's name is being dragged through the mud because of something that happened years ago. It comes at a time when he should be applauded for the way he handled himself in the most trying season of his long, successful football career.

But the story isn't going away -- even though it's all been written before.

Reach David Climer on Twitter @DavidClimer.