Thirteen years ago, USA Today obtained 74 pages of explosive court documents on Peyton Manning, Archie Manning, the University of Tennessee, and Florida Southern College that revealed allegations of a sexual-assault scandal, cover up, and smear campaign of the victim that was so deep, so widespread and so ugly that it would’ve rocked the American sports world to its core. Yet USA Today never released those documents for reasons I can’t explain.
Mel Antonen, now a baseball writer for Sports Illustrated, wrote about the documents for the paper on Nov. 3, 2003. Three days later, Christine Brennan, longtime sportswriter for USA Today wrote an op-ed about Peyton Manning and the documents entitled, “Do you really know your sports hero?” but the scandal pretty much died right there.
Facebook wouldn’t be invented for three more months. Twitter didn’t come for three more years. The word “viral” was still only being used to describe the spread of infectious diseases.
But when the documents were sent to me on Tuesday, two days after the Super Bowl, it was immediately clear to me that had the world actually known what they contained, it’s doubtful that Peyton would have ever been the “swell, golly, gee-whiz” pitchman for Nationwide Insurance, DirecTV or Papa John’s Pizza. Certainly, evangelical op-eds calling him “squeaky clean” and positioning Peyton as the arbiter of all things good and decent in the world simply wouldn’t be the case.
But as his career winds down, we’re left to grapple with the reality that there is credible evidence that Peyton and the Manning family knowingly, willingly, wantonly ruined the good name and career of Dr. Jamie Naughright, a respected scholar, speaker, professor, and trainer of some of the best athletes in the world.
On the morning after Super Bowl 50, I posted a picture on my Facebook page of Cam Newton smiling and embracing Peyton Manning after the game and simply asked why that warm photo wasn’t being talked about instead of Cam being frustrated at the post-game press conference. It has since been shared more than 234,000 times and seen by more than 20 million people. It now has nearly 6,000 comments, but on that morning, just one leaped out at me, which mentioned something to the effect of “Peyton sexually assaulted a girl in college.”
Now, I get a lot of crap posted on my Facebook page, but I decided, on a whim, to Google “Peyton Manning sexual assault University of Tennessee.” That’s how I discovered the two old USA Today articles about the case. Later that day, when I wrote an article on the racial double standards in the media between Peyton Manning and Cam Newton, I decided to mention the sexual assault case, and how the allegations had somehow slid right off of Peyton like virtually every other mistake he has ever made in his career.
Less than 24 hours later, a source who claimed to see my article on the racial double standard, sent me a 74-page court document from Polk County court in Florida. Sitting in the San Francisco airport, waiting for a flight home, I opened the PDF, began reading, and felt like I had stumbled on to state secrets. I literally moved to where nobody could see my computer screen.
While Peyton Manning is not the president of the United States, in a land where football is king, he is the Captain America of sports and certainly one of the best quarterbacks of all time. He’s also a prolific pitchman, the friendly face of several multi-billion dollar corporations.
This document says, in essence, that it’s all a facade, an act, a well-designed for-profit creation, maintained and manicured at all cost. For me, it was like reading proof that the first Apollo moon landing was really a fictional tale filmed in a Hollywood studio designed to dupe us all. That flag, planted in the moon, seemingly blowing in the wind, was a ruse after all. Maybe B.o.B. was right on this one fact.
I read every single page in the airport before I boarded my flight. Maybe a good hundred times, I wondered to myself, Why — and how — had all of this been kept secret for so long?
Titled “Facts of the Case,” and submitted to the court by the plaintiff’s lawyers, the document, which warrants many more takes and reflections than what I will offer today, is simultaneously shocking, disgusting, painful, and infuriating. It offers us the living, breathing human names and faces of the individuals the American sports machine is willing to mow down in the name of profit and fame.
To begin with, Dr. Jamie Naughright was not “a girl” sexually assaulted by Peyton Manning; she was an esteemed professional widely admired by students and peers alike at the University of Tennessee, where she was the Director of Health & Wellness for the Men’s Athletic Program. Originally from New Jersey, Naughright had made Knoxville her home away from home.
In 1991, she earned her B.A. from the University of Tennessee in Exercise Physiology with a Minor in Football Coaching (I didn’t even know such a minor existed). A year later, with a 3.7 GPA, she earned her Master’s Degree in Health Education and Promotion. A few years later, with a 3.925 GPA, she earned her doctorate from the University of Tennessee in Health Education and Wellness.
In fact, Jamie Naughright had been a staple across all sports programs at the University of Tennessee and had more tenure than most of the football staff, including the head coach at the time, Phillip Fulmer.
Starting as a student in 1988, Naughright devoted her entire life to the University of Tennessee athletic program. She was a student trainer for the women’s athletic programs and a supervisor for intramural sports on campus. From 1989-91, she was the student trainer for the men’s athletic department. After earning her bachelor’s degree and entering grad school, she became the graduate assistant trainer for the men’s athletic program for two years. Gifted and respected throughout the campus, she was hired as the assistant trainer for the entire men’s athletic program in 1993, following a year as a full-time intern.
After two years in that role, she was hired as the Director of Health and Wellness for the Men’s Athletic Program. In that position she developed widely acclaimed educational and medical programs for students and oversaw the drug testing of all of the male athletes. She presented academic papers, served as an instructor and lecturer for college courses, and traveled frequently with students and staff to conferences all over the country. She started successful community projects and raised funds for local charities.
While serving as the Director of Health and Wellness, Naughright also was the head trainer for Tennessee’s track and field program, which includes cross country, indoor, and outdoor athletics. In that position she hired and trained 25 staff members, oversaw all medical care for every track and field athlete, served as the medical director for large events, coordinated annual physicals and supervised weekly drug testing. So many athletes — which would eventually include medal-winning Olympians — developed such a deep respect for Dr. Naughright that she would be requested to travel with them to international events and world championships.
In addition to all of her other responsibilities, Naughright served as the associate athletic trainer for the men’s football program. Where you live probably determines how much you know or care about Southeastern Conference football. But in small- to medium-sized cities across the south — places like Knoxville, Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge, Gainesville — SEC football is just a little more important than God. The years Naughright was employed as the associate trainer by the men’s football program, from 1996-98, were arguably the three best years in the modern history of the program, as the team won back-to-back SEC championships and the national title. Dr. Jamie Naughright was as an absolute force of nature in the University of Tennessee’s sports program.
At that time, Naughright’s education, training and ascension through the ranks of the University of Tennessee’s athletic program should have culminated, after more than 10 years of service to the institution, with her being able to land any job she wanted. When football teams win SEC championships and national titles, key employees can pretty much dictate where in the sports world they want to work next. If Dr. Jamie Naughright was a man that likely would’ve been the case for her as well.
As an undergraduate in 1989, Naughright, who had interned for a year with the women’s athletic programs (including the world-famous UT women’s basketball team), was transferred to the men’s programs. According to court documents and affidavits, her boss, associate trainer Mike Rollo, perceived Naughright to be a lesbian. Rollo, who had just left working with a group of young women he also thought to be lesbians, allegedly began calling Naughright “c–t bumper.” This wasn’t a rare occurrence or something he said to her only in private; he allegedly called her that in front of others. For three years, until 1992, when Naughright built up enough courage to complain, she said she was almost exclusively called “c–t bumper,” or “bumper” for short, by a variety of staff members in the program (see court documents, pages 5-7; all subsequent references are to these).
According to the allegations in the documents, Rollo regularly referred to the women’s teams, known as the Lady Volunteers, as the Lady Lickers. Naughright, who is not a lesbian, said she was told by Rollo that she would just have to get used to hearing such vulgarities. Since she was one of the first women to work in the men’s program, the 20-year-old Naughright decided to endure the abuse if it meant she could serve as a pioneer of sorts for women in sports. After Naughright issued a formal complaint, Rollo and other staff members allegedly were ordered by administrators to cease the practice. While the name “c–t bumper” ceased, Rollo and the staff continued to call her “bumper” and would frequently add other sexual adjectives to it (see page 8).
Determined to persevere without jeopardizing her career, Naughright began writing policies for the program prohibiting foul or abusive language. First she instituted the policies for athletic training rooms, then later the male cheerleading program. Eventually she would train a variety of student athletes on the proper and professional use of appropriate language.
In the fall of 1994, Peyton Manning entered the University of Tennessee football program as the already-famous son of legendary college and pro football star Archie Manning. That semester, his first on campus, some type of incident involving Manning and Naughright occurred. By request of the counsel of Peyton Manning, the details of that incident have been sealed and three-and-a-half pages concerning it have been redacted from the permanent record (see pages 11-14).
Whatever happened, Naughright claims it colored and informed the professional interactions between Naughright and Manning from that time on and caused Manning to consistently harbor anger toward her. Yet in spite of the drama, Naughright served as the medical director for the NCAA Track and Field Championships in 1995 and was a member of the training staff for the Olympics trials for the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
To say that her problems with Peyton Manning boiled over in 1996 would be understating it.
On Feb. 29 of that year, Naughright, at that point the university’s director of health and wellness, was in a training room, examining what she thought might be a possible stress fracture in Manning’s foot. At 6 feet, 5 inches, his feet dangled off the edge of the table. Manning allegedly then proceeded to scoot down the training table while Naughright examined his foot. At that point, she said, he forcefully maneuvered his naked testicles and rectum directly on her face with his penis on top of her head. Shocked, disgusted, and offended, Naughright pushed Manning away, removing her head out from under him (see pages 14-15). Within hours, she reported the incident to the Sexual Assault Crisis Center in Knoxville (see page 18).
According to the court records, Manning initially denied the incident ever took place. It was a calculated risk. He was the star quarterback, a Heisman trophy hopeful, and a likely No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. While Naughright was now a respected member of the staff, Manning was the star, the savior of Tennessee football. It was his word against hers.
When Rollo learned of the complaint, he allegedly concocted a story that Manning actually pulled down his pants to moon another student-athlete, Malcolm Saxon, who was nearby. According to Rollo, after mooning the student, Naughright just happened to move her head right into Manning’s pelvic region. Rollo acknowledged under oath that he was the first person to use the word “mooning.”
One person, though, could settle all of this: Malcolm Saxon.
And, in fact, he did settle it. In an affidavit, Saxon refuted Manning’s story and made it clear that Manning never mooned him. In a letter to Manning, Saxon, who stated that he lost his eligibility as a student-athlete over it, practically begged him to come forward and tell the truth (see page 20). Here’s an excerpt from the letter:
First, I have stuck to my same story throughout this drama. I told Mike Rollo the next day and Coach Fulmer a week or two afterwards. I had nothing to hide at that point and I have nothing to hide today. I have never been on Jamie’s side or on your side (contrary to what the athletic department was telling you and telling her). I stuck to the truth and I lost my eligibility for it. My redshirt request sat on Mike Rollo’s desk for months as the process was going forward. I’m not angry about it anymore, just getting a little tired of it!!
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.…
Saxon goes on to tell Peyton things like:
Coming clean is the right thing to do.
You have shown no mercy or grace to this lady who was on her knees seeing if you had a stress fracture.
You might as well maintain some dignity and admit to what happened.
Your celebrity doesn’t mean that you can treat folks this way.
For anybody other than Peyton Manning, such damning statements from a fellow student who had no dog in the fight would have been the nail in their coffin. As a general rule, it’s not just gross to smash your testicles on a woman’s face, it’s a crime.
I’m embarrassed to even be typing such things, but imagine if a grown man forced his genitals on to the face of your daughter or sister or mother or beloved colleague. What would you think about that? Would you tell your wife, “Well, that’s gross, honey. How was the rest of your day?” Would you ask your daughter, “What she did to deserve that?” Of course you wouldn’t. You’d be outraged.
When Rollo was asked, under oath, if the woman he had known for more than seven years would respond in such a way to being mooned, he repeatedly said no (see pages 15-16). Yet he allegedly concocted the mooning narrative, nonetheless.
Instead, the school asked Naughright to leave. Having poured her heart and soul out to the University of Tennessee for nearly 10 years, she agreed, as a part of a settlement agreement, to part ways.
Before she left, though, two staff members of the school, according to the documents, asked Naughright if she would consider blaming the entire incident not on Manning, but on another athlete — a black one. According to Naughright, the staff members (named as Mr. Wyant and Mr. Rollo), went so far as to actually name a specific black athlete she could blame it on. Of course, she refused (see pages 18-19).
In her remaining time at the university, Naughright testified that Manning, in her presence, on two separate occasions, deliberately reenacted the sexual assault on other student athletes to terrorize her. On another occasion he allegedly called her a “bitch” in front of other athletes after snatching a marker used to label drug-test specimens from her hand and throwing it across the room (see page 22).
When Naughright finally left the University of Tennessee it was both heartbreaking and a great relief. She was hired to be an assistant professor and the program director of the Athletic Education Training Program at Florida Southern College. For more than three years she served Florida Southern with great distinction. She received, according to the court documents, regular raises, outstanding reviews, and was credited for helping grow the program in measurable ways.
In 1998, she served as the head athletic trainer for the U.S. women’s track and field program in Beijing. Two years later, she was hired to be the head athletic trainer for the both the men’s and women’s USA track and field teams in their competition versus Canada. Her professional life had clearly turned a corner. Beloved both by athletes and her colleagues, Naughright had decided she’d never discuss the sexual assault by Manning publicly. In fact, both she and Manning signed a confidentiality agreement when she left the University of Tennessee that they would not discuss it.
Yet, in 2001, after moving on and revitalizing her career, everything came crashing down again. Now a quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, and more famous than ever, Manning violated the confidentiality agreement in a way that could not be undone. It has scarred Naughright like a scarlet letter to this very day.
On May 16th, 2001, Naughright returned to Florida after accompanying her students on an educational and medical trip to South Africa. When she arrived at her office, she found a large manilla envelope in a receptacle on her door with the words “Dr. Vulgar Mouth Whited” printed on it (see page 1). Whited was Naughright’s married name for most of her time at the University of Tennessee. She was immediately disturbed. Other employees testified that the envelope had been there for a few days before she arrived home from South Africa.
In it, were Xerox copies from some type of publication. It appeared to be written by Peyton Manning and it was about her. Colleagues who saw her after opening it testified that she was shaken up by what she read. Manning and his father, Archie, had written a book called “The Mannings” and perhaps wanting to put their stamp on the incident in Knoxville before it ever reached the public, they threw Naughright under bus.
Her supervisor at Florida Southern had already opened the envelope and read what was in it. What Manning said about her ruined her career at Florida Southern and in college athletics once and for all. After years of amazing reviews and great work at the university, the controversy from the book and the stress it created eventually caused Dr. Jamie Naughright to be let go, once again, for doing nothing wrong.
It appears that Peyton and Archie Manning thought Naughright would accept what they did to her quietly. They were wrong. This time, she did file suit against Peyton Manning, Archie Manning, the ghostwriter John Underwood, and the publisher Harper Collins. Manning and his lawyers asked for the case to be dismissed, but Polk County Circuit Judge Harvey A. Kornstein not only denied the motion but put Peyton Manning, his father, and the others on blast. In his statement, he said:
“Even if the plaintiff is a public figure, the evidence of record contains sufficient evidence to satisfy the court that a genuine issue of material fact exists that would allow a jury to find, by clear and convincing evidence, the existence of actual malice of the part of the defendants.
“Specifically, there is evidence of record, substantial enough to suggest that the defendants knew that the passages in question were false, or acted in reckless disregard of their falsity. There is evidence of record to suggest that there were obvious reasons to doubt the veracity of Peyton Manning’s account of the incident in question. The court further finds that there is sufficient evidence to permit the conclusion that the defendants entertained serious doubts as to the truth of the passages in this case.”
In other words, Judge Kornstein said that there is evidence to support the conclusion that Peyton Manning lied in his book about the incidents and knew that he was lying about the incidents.
Under deposition, it was learned from their ghostwriter, John Underwood, that Archie Manning, speaking of Dr. Jamie Naughright said, “He didn’t really like this girl” (see page 24).
Playing a bit of good cop, bad cop, Peyton said, “I certainly didn’t dislike her. I thought she had a vulgar mouth, but I always tried to be nice.” Peyton went on to describe a few favors that he did for Dr. Naughright, including one on a trip to Virginia, where, at Naughright’s request, he gave some younger students a ride somewhere (see page 25).
When forced to testify about this incident in a deposition, attorneys asked Peyton to describe a specific incident when Dr. Naughright had a “vulgar mouth.” He could only think of one — it was during the Virginia trip. According to Manning, Dr. Naughright said to him, “These motherf—ers are yours. Get these motherf—ers off my hands for a little while.”
It appears that Manning, who was under oath, completely concocted this story out of thin air. Again, just as he expected the student athlete, Malcolm Saxon, to go along with the story of his mooning Naughright, he assumed that the plethora of witnesses in Virginia would also go along with his new lie. Unfortunately for him, they didn’t (see page 26).
On the trip to Charlottesville, Va., five University of Tennessee student were selected to go to the NCAA’s annual APPLE Conference, a training symposium on substance-abuse prevention and health promotion for student athletes and athletic department administrators. One was Manning. Three were teammates from the football team: Eric Lane, Scott Pfeiffer and Tyrone Hines. The last, Geno Devane, was a track and field athlete.
The other four students, all juniors and seniors, were all older than Manning, who was a sophomore. Under oath, they each testified that Manning never gave them a ride anywhere that night and never would have. It was a peculiar story. But the strangest — and most damning — part of their testimony, though, was that they each made it abundantly clear that they never heard Naughright say one vulgar word that night or any other. Devane, a medical student at the time of his testimony, said, “I can assure you that I would remember. I would have been very upset if that had occurred. That type of language would have been completely out of character because she was always very professional around me and other student-athletes.”
Furthermore, Devane recalls very clearly who drove the athletes that night and it wasn’t Manning; it was Eric Lane (see page 28).
Devane’s testimony gets even more damning. Line by line, and statement by statement, he repeatedly testifies, “I unequivocally state that this did not occur,” regarding virtually every aspect of the story Manning concocted.
For some, the testimony of Eric Lane can be considered even worse than that of Devane. Lane was not only Manning’s teammate, but also his fullback on offense. At the time of his testimony he was an employee of the University of Tennessee and in the final year of law school. He also testified that he could not recall any such thing ever being said or done by Naughright (see page 29).
Jill Griffin, the head of the Metropolitan Drug Commission in Knoxville, who was also on the trip, roomed with Naughright and spent a great deal of time with her, testified that she never heard Naughright say a vulgar word over the entire history of them knowing each other and, furthermore, that she never heard her calling students by vulgar names. In fact, Griffin testified that Naughright was exceedingly professional at all times with the students (see pages 30-33).
While not personal friends, Griffin and Naughright worked together on the drug commission for over three years. She testified that she was an “excellent board member,” and that she “had a good reputation in the Knoxville community and on the Metropolitan Drug Commission.”
But it gets worse. Much worse.
Soon after the alleged sexual assault, records show that Manning told the school, “I have never approved of Jamie’s vulgar language. It has always been my opinion, along with the majority of the team, that Jamie wants to be one of the guys.”
To his father, he concocted far worse lies that were torn apart, one by one, when he and others were forced to testify under oath. He told his father, Archie, “she’s kind of trashy,” and “had the most vulgar mouth of any girl he’d ever seen” and “was unattractive but had big breasts” and had “been out with a bunch of black guys” and “had a toilet mouth.”
Under oath, the ghostwriter, John Underwood revealed that Archie Manning suggested to him that Naughright was going into the dorms and having sex with large numbers of black student athletes. After saying that she was up in the dorms with black students, Archie, states:
And, she’d, she’d, been up in the dorm before, I mean hey, you know, they could have, you know, could have pulled off stuff on her too. Ah, she, toilet mouth, ah Peyton told me he never did like her, but he always did, cause what I’d told him to do, ah, I instructed him to be nice to the tr- … don’t ever look down on a trainer or an equipment person you know.
According to the records, attorneys for Naughright drilled person after person, staff member after staff member, asking them to identify an instance where they heard Naughright use vulgar language. Not a single person could do so. One after another, those who claimed she was promiscuous admitted under oath that they didn’t have any evidence to support such claims. Instead, everyone, to the person, claimed they had just heard such charges from somebody who heard from somebody that it might be true (see pages 37-40). No one with firsthand knowledge testified to her ever being vulgar or having sexual relationships with student athletes.
In fact, the opposite was true.
Lawrence Johnson, an Olympic silver medalist and gold medalist at the World Indoor Games, testified at great length to the character, compassion, professionalism, and overall amazing nature of Dr. Jamie Naughright (see pages 42-43). He testified that he believed he had attended at least 80 different local, national, and international events with her and that he had not heard her a single vulgar word in the 10 years he had known and worked with her. He testified that she was “professional and proper” in her conduct, appearance, and demeanor. He went on testify how she came to check on him at his bedside after surgeries and traveled with him to meets all over the world to ensure his peak performance.
Another student athlete, Antonio Brewer, who has known Naughright since 1995, testified that he personally knew her to have high moral character and that her reputation for being a moral person was actually well-known at the university. He testified that he had never heard her use vulgar language of any kind (see page 43) and that he was deeply offended by the racist suggestion made by Archie Manning that she was sleeping around with black athletes.
Until this very day, have you ever seen a single interview with Dr. Jamie Naughright trashing Peyton Manning? Me neither. I never knew that any of this happened until last week. My understanding is that she has not worked in college athletics since being let go from Florida Southern.
The defamation suit was settled in 2003 but terms were not disclosed. Naughright settled her suit against the University of Tennessee for a reported $300,000.
The book, which trashes the character of Dr. Jamie Naughright, continues to be sold to this very day, while Peyton Manning continues to benefit from his reputation not only as a superstar quarterback, but also an individual of high moral character. In fact, he has reaped tens of millions of dollars in endorsement deals based on a fraudulent mystique he’s cultivated as a good guy, an upstanding citizen, the ideal professional athlete.
This document alone puts the lie to all this. He hasn’t come close to apologizing for sexually assaulting Dr. Jamie Naughright. Quite the contrary, he besmirched her stellar reputation and character. The price he should have paid for what he did her — at very least — she has ended paying over and over again, both at the University of Tennessee and, later, at Southern Florida.
Source: NY Daily News