Peyton Manning, now accused in the Al Jazeera documentary “The Dark Side” of using banned drug HGH, bids farewell to Indianapolis in 2012.

The PR Wins and Losses of Peyton Manning

Can the Future Hall-of-Famer recover from this fumble?

This past week has been quite the rollercoaster for future NFL Hall Of Famer, Peyton Manning. Accusations of alleged performance enhancing drug usage, specifically HGH (human growth hormone), came to light in a documentary “The Dark Side” produced by Al Jazeera, naming Manning and other professional athletes as part of a doping ring. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Manning is accused by a former pharmacist of receiving and using the banned drug HGH from Indianapolis-based alternative therapy clinic, The Guyer Institute, during his neck injury recovery, which essentially ended his career as an Indianapolis Colt. The drugs were allegedly shipped to his wife, Ashley.

Why is this significant? The NFL has banned the use of the HGH by any player in order to gain a competitive advantage. The use of banned substances are a huge no-no in the NFL (despite the many more damaging offenses that go unpunished…but that’s another blog post for another day.)

Oh, and it’s Peyton Manning. Mr. Play-By-The-Rules. Mr. Funny-Commercial-Man. Mr. Super-Charity.

Mr. Beloved-By-All.

Being a long-time Indianapolis Colts fan, the utter thought of #18 cheating makes me want to sob. But from a PR standpoint, is his game plan to advert this potentially reputation-crushing crisis stacking up more losses than wins? Here are my thoughts:


Wins

Offense Wins Games, Defense Wins Championships
Manning went on record almost immediately after reports of the accusations came to light, even conducting an interview with ESPN the very next day. He venomously denied the allegations, calling them “garbage” and welcomed an investigation. Although his expertise is packing an offensive punch on the field, his defensive PR game isn’t too shabby.

Bring in Another Franchise QB
Manning hired former White House Press Secretary and crisis management top gun, Ari Fleischer, to call the plays in this battle. Taking a sideline and letting the special teams do their thing is not only smart but vital in any personal and professional character attack.

Supporters (and Rivals) are His Biggest Cheerleaders.
Those who know #18 the best can strongly attest to his work ethic and character. Many of these players that Manning has come across in his stellar career have been very outspoken about these allegations.

“Not Peyton. Never.” — Bill Polian, former Colts President/GM
I fully support him.
 — Tom Brady, Patriots QB*
“The entire Indianapolis Colts organization and the Irsay family hope this crude effort to besmirch Peyton’s reputation will not be permitted to tarnish the legacy of a great Colt.” — statement from the Indianapolis Colts

*I hate the fact that Shady Brady’s name is in MY blog. Eew!

A Flimsy Source Committing a Huge Turnover
If you’re wondering who the hell this Charlie Sly guy is, I’m with you. He has reportedly recanted his statements he made in the documentary, admitting that he lied. Whoops. That’s almost as bad as the Colts’ infamous “fake punt.” (Sorry Colts fans, I had to.)


Losses

His Wife is Thrust in the Spotlight
The Mannings have gone to tremendous lengths to keep his wife, Ashley, out of the public eye. Now with her name being dragged into this allegation, any privacy she had before is gone. The investigation will certainly reveal very personal information, such as her medical records. Quite frankly, it’s no one’s business but is sadly the price she’ll pay.

The seed of doubt is planted.
Those dreaded words of “what if” have now creeped into the minds of many Manning loyalists (including myself). Thinking about #18’s fall from grace made my jaw drop and eyes bug out. That small shred of doubt could do big damage.


To Sum It Up

In this day in age, it’s alarmingly common to hear of professional athletes getting arrested for drugs, rape or other horrible offensives. We have witnessed how reputations can be damaged beyond repair when athletes break the rules (Pete Rose, anyone? Too easy to plug the Pats in here so I’ll refrain.).

In my opinion, I feel that Manning has a good shot at recovering from this IF his dream team can solidly disprove the claims. He has a reputation of steel, an army of supporters, and a likability factor that far exceeds any other pro athlete.

However, if these claims do hold true, this will be the biggest fall from grace in the history of professional sports. He will not only be known as a cheater but far worse — a liar. That, he most certainly won’t recover from.

And my heart will be crushed, along with millions of other Manning Maniacs.

Only time will reveal how this plays out. Until then, I’ll choose to wait it out and only worry about my Colts picking up decent O-line players in the off-season. One can dream.

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