Manning’s Defenders are Burying the Lead

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After the Denver Broncos, led more by their defense than by Manning himself, won Super Bowl 50 I joked on Twitter that at least Manning would have a great couple of weeks leading up to his much anticipated retirement to look back on and treasure after his legacy began to be ruined by a human growth hormone scandale that was brought to light by Al Jazeera.

While the HGH allegations are still under investigation, it’s not hard to believe Manning’s retirement would save him from the fallout of any negative outcomes. Lately however, another story has surfaced. One that in our day of political correctness is not so easily dismissed, it’s a story that shows the best and worst of our hypersensitive, digital world.

We all know what I’m talking about. The twenty-year-old complaint made against Manning by a trainer at the University of Tennessee and the subsequent years of supposed harassment by Manning of said trainer.

I’m not going to go in-depth on it. There are a lot of places to find in-depth articles; such as: here and here and the original article here.

An important thing to remember is that Manning has not been found guilty of anything.

It’s good to be skeptical about allegations being brought back up after twent years. The original article is one sided, in that it has no response from Manning or his family (which is important considering it claims that Archie Manning helped his son to write a book in which they attack the trainer for lewd conduct and vulgarity), and that it uses as its source documents written by the trainer’s lawyer, not actual court documents.

It’s good to be skeptical. Though on social media, it appears that many are not and have already labeled Manning as a monster that should be banned to some lonely cave somewhere with only his trophies to keep him company. An NFL Gollum if you will.

The idea that one is innocent until proven guilty is dead in this day-and-age.

However, one can’t help but notice some of the things being said in Manning’s defense.

Clay Travis, has probably the worst defense of Manning that I’ve seen: “So twenty years ago Peyton Manning — as part of a locker room prank — pulled off a mooning and, potentially, a mooning plus backside contact on a trainer…My God, a mooning and, if the plaintiff’s claim is to be believed, which is a different story than she initially told, a mooning accompanied by brief contact in a locker room!”

While he does bring up interesting points in his column, the plaintive changed her account of the story some seven years later to include contact with Manning despite an affidavit signed immediately following the incident that disputes this, Travis ruins any credibility with me by making the article less about inconsistencies in the trainer’s story and more about how the hate filled, PC bros of the internet are out to bring a white man down over a harmless prank.

It’s a ridiculous assertion.

Shaun King, the writer of the original article, says he was drawn to the story because of how Cam Newton was treated after the Super Bowl but yet Manning, who is part of a lawsuit against the University of Tennessee having an unsafe work environment for women can ride into the sunset scott free. Who cares? Who cares if King wanted to make it a race story? The larger picture is that there’s a possibility that Manning sexually assaulted a woman.

No worries though, it was just a locker room prank. I mean, it’s one thing for some random stranger to tea bag your wife, or girlfriend, but hey if it’s just some locker room prank then by all means, let it go. Sports!

There’s also Jason Whitlock, who once argued that he deserved a Pulitzer because…well he deserved it, took to the Dan Patrick show and chastised King as not being black enough and then said that had an incident occurred in his time playing football (Whitlock played at my alma mater Ball State) teammates would have punched the offender out, even though it was the sexist, of most sexist times the 1980s.

Again, these are idiotic arguments made to simply disappear the story behind the supposed fear of political correctness.

The fact that King isn’t black enough, or black at all according to Whitlock and Travis, is inconsequential. It doesn’t change what Manning might have done twenty years ago.

Secondly, Whitlock’s romanticized version of his locker room provides no evidence as to what other locker rooms may be like. It might be easy to punch out the quarterback of a MAC school that’s never won a bowl game or had a first round draft pick. Not so easy when said quarterback is the Heisman favorite from a powerhouse school who would lead it to an SEC championship (they’d win a national championship a year later) and be drafted first over-all.

Besides, all that aside, the idea that nobility and honor would win out in these situations needs only to be tested against the horrors of the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State to see how fruitless they are. Football trumps all.

Again, I’m not saying Manning is guilty. But arguments about his innocence should be limited to facts of the case, and those facts shouldn’t be laughed at as a simple locker room prank. Wasn’t “it’s all in good fun” the same excuse we saw in “Mad Men?”

Manning’s defenders shouldn’t be afraid to point out inconsistencies in the story. They shouldn’t be afraid to question the motives of King or anyone else involved. In fact, it’s better that they do. Who wouldn’t want to be the person to bring down a two time Super Bowl champion who has solidified how tasty chicken parm is with his catchy insurance jingle?

There is much to be gained at Peyton’s demise.

However, does that mean we have to resort to failing to recognize sexual assault for what it is? Does that mean that we have to drag the digital race wars into it? No.

So King wants to make it about race? Let him try. There’s no need to bring that side of it up in coverage. There’s no need to defend possibly tea-bagging someone as a silly prank. Call it what it is, and if you feel so inclined say whether you think Manning did it or not.

Cover the story, not your feelings about political correctness.

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