Peyton Manning is making headlines again shortly after he and the Denver Broncos brought home a Super Bowl win, but this time he is in the news for his alleged role in creating a “hostile sexual environment” at University of Tennessee during his time as a student-athlete in the 90s.
ESPN reports Manning is among a group of student-athletes who were cited in a lawsuit filed against the University of Tennessee earlier this week regarding alleged Title IX violations and a hostile sexual environment where assaults by student athletes were treated with indifference.
The current lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Nashville, and it alleges that over the years the school created an environment where women who reported incidents of alleged sexual assault were subjected to additional harassment due to the school’s response and that the school gave preference to male athletes when investigating and issuing discipline.
Manning’s alleged involvement stems from an incident in 1996 when he was playing quarterback for the school. Manning allegedly removed his shorts and placed his naked genitals on a female athletic trainer’s face while she was examining him. Manning denied the allegation, and he claimed to have been “mooning” another teammate when the woman inadvertently moved into contact with his genitals.
According to the New York Daily News, citing court documents from the incident, Dr. Jamie Naughright later sued over the incident, and during the course of the lawsuit the other student Manning claimed to have been mooning at the time refuted Manning’s claim.
The NY Daily News article quotes a portion of a letter from that other student to Manning, and the student claims he lost his athletic eligibility over the incident and asked Manning to take responsibility.
An excerpt from that letter is included in the article from NY Daily News:
“Peyton, you messed up. I still don’t know why you dropped your drawers. Maybe it was a mistake, maybe not. But it was definitely inappropriate. Please take some personal responsibility here and own up to what you did. I never understood why you didn’t admit to it….”
The lawsuit from Naughright was ultimately settled, and she left the university as part of that agreement. However, several years later, Manning published an autobiography “Manning: A Father, His Sons and a Football Legacy,” in which he made disparaging claims about Naughright. The woman sued the Mannings again in 2003 over the statements made in the book. The NY Daily News reports the case was settled and the terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
ESPN reports there have been multiple sexual assault complaints made regarding athletes at Tennessee in recent years, and that the lawsuit filed Tuesday names 10 players, including Manning. The suit represents six unidentified plaintiffs and was filed against the University of Tennessee and the director of the office of student conduct and community standards.
An attorney for UT responded in a statement, according to ESPN, saying they acted “lawfully and in good faith” in addressing the situations outlined in the complaint and adding they have devoted significant resources to creating a safe environment for students.