Shaun King on reporting sexual assault allegations against Peyton Manning: ‘I’m glad we wrote it’

New York Daily News writer Shaun King published a column Saturday reacting to a 74-page document which, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, was written by lawyers representing former University of Tennessee trainer Jamie Ann Naughright. The document details sexual assault allegations against Peyton Manning, committed while the two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback was a student at the University of Tennessee.

The document – which originally received coverage in USA Today in 2003 – alleges Manning sexually assaulted Naughright. As part of the assault, Manning allegedly put his “naked butt and rectum” on Naughright’s face. The document continues to allege Manning worked to cover up the incident. What followed was a defamation lawsuit filed on Naughright’s behalf against Manning and his father, Archie.

Florio called the document a “piece of advocacy” and “necessarily, one-sided.” He also wonders “how much traction a 13-year-old filing regarding a 20-year-old incident” will achieve. (According to the organization’s Twitter account, King blocked Pro Football Talk in the hours following the publication of his column.)

King joined The Stephen A. Smith Show on SiriusXM Mad Dog Sports Radio to discuss the troubles following Manning.

“I literally had no idea that there was any controversy that even existed with Peyton Manning and there being some allegations of a sexual assault,” King said. “When I posted my thoughts on Facebook about this racial double-standard, I saw a comment from somebody saying this guy sexually assaulted a woman a long time ago and nobody even talks about it. That was the first time I ever heard about it.”

King then wrote a column about Manning and Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, discussing that “racial double-standard.” At the end of the column, he mentioned the sexual assault allegations, and the original story about the incident written by USA Today reporter Christine Brennan in 2003. King says that same day he “randomly” received the 74-page document from an anonymous sender.

“I was just blown away,” King said. “I had never seen it, I knew that it had never been released. And I knew that if half of what was in that document was true, then Peyton and Tennessee had some real problems on their hands.”

What the document does contain is alarming. It includes details of Manning’s attempted cover-up and alleges Manning taunted Naughright following the incident.

“What bothered me wasn’t just what happened to her there,” King said. “It was that after she moved on and said nothing about the incident, Peyton Manning and Archie Manning in their book came for her head and really ruined her career. They ended up having to pay her in a defamation lawsuit. The book they wrote really helped tank her revitalized career at Florida Southern. So even after Peyton left Tennessee, here he is as a quarterback for the Colts, he’s still coming for this lady.”

King said there were multiple teammates of Manning who testified in signed affidavits (“at least 10 different affidavits,” he said) that he lied about Naughright in his book. He also said people who were close to Manning tried to compel him to come clean and tell the truth.

“When athletes reluctantly, mind you, testify one after another saying he was blatantly dishonest about his recollection of what happened, I’m troubled,” King said. “We should all be troubled, particularly in light of the reality that now we’re learning multiple women have had a terrible experience at the University of Tennessee, and it continues to be swept under the rug.”

King is a known supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and has been noted for his use of his column and social media to promote social causes. But he made it clear that his reporting of this issue had nothing to do with his activism or personal beliefs.

“This article had nothing to do with my experience as an activist and or as a writer, and I tried very much to stick to the facts in that piece,” he said. “I have editors, I have other people who comb through it to make sure that we were coming at it the right way, and I felt pretty strongly about it and I still do. … I’m glad we wrote it. My hope was that it would put a spotlight, not just on Peyton Manning, but on the reality that women in male-dominated industries often deal with ridiculous amounts of discrimination and sexism, and when they speak out they end up being the ones who pay the price for it.”

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