COMMENTARY: Manning’s legacy truly in jeopardy

Photo by Jeffrey Beall, distributed under a CC-BY-SA-3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo by Jeffrey Beall, distributed under a CC-BY-SA-3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

Paul Capoccia, Asst. Sports Editor

Peyton Manning had a season filled with ups and downs, and this offseason is just continuing the trend.

After a poor start to his season leading the league in interceptions, injuries sidelined Manning before he was able to return to be a game-manager for the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. Along the way, he faced questions of his ability, his health, and his use of HGH.

Now, Manning faces the most damning question yet. What happened back at the University of Tennessee twenty years ago?

In a recent Title IX lawsuit filed against the University of Tennessee, Manning is named as an example of the “hostile sexual environment and culture” over the last few decades. Six unidentified accusers have come forward due to the school’s indifference.

In an even more polarizing article written as gonzo journalism, little-known writer Shaun King details his discovery of Manning’s settlement in his alleged sexual assault of a trainer. Included with the piece were 74 pages of documentation about the case.

While writers like Mike Florio have called Shaun King’s reporting into question, the media has nonetheless picked up the story and ran with it.

The twenty-year-old case itself raises several of its own questions on how the media handled and framed the story poorly, among other things. But, if Manning wants to be remembered as he might have been before this and the HGH scandal, he only has one choice.

He needs to provide some real answers.

While many were satisfied with Manning’s rash response to the Al Jazeera report, calling the allegations “slapstick lies”, such blunt dismissal will not be sufficient this time around. Twenty years ago, he somehow got away with simply berating his alleged sexual assault victim, sweeping the whole scenario under the rug.

That’s not going to work in 2016.

The details of his alleged assault are disturbing to say the least. If Manning wants to continue to be a successful endorser, as he has been throughout his career, he needs to find a way to set the record straight with hard facts and truthful answers. His retirement will be changing a whole lot if he doesn’t.

Both Manning’s legacy as a football player and as a human being are on the line. Should we believe anything or everything he may say in the coming weeks? Likely not. But, he has to start talking. Or the rest of us will continue to until he does.

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