One of Shaun King’s colleagues at the New York Daily News, sports columnist Mike Lupica, slammed the Black Lives Matter activist’s recent coverage of 20-year-old sexual harassment allegations made against then-University of Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning.
“We’re not just supposed to be prosecuting Peyton Manning,” Lupica said with sarcasm during a segment on ESPN’s “Sports Reporters” on Sunday. “No, that’s not good enough because of the righteousness of the conversation.”
“We are also supposed to be re-prosecuting the media because at the time, first in ’96 and then when the defamation lawsuit was filed, we did not treat this like the crime of the century.”
In an article published last weekend, King, the Daily News’ senior justice writer, shared details from a 74-page document filed in 2003 by former University of Tennessee trainer Dr. Jamie Naughright against Manning.
As King characterized it, the document reflects on Manning’s celebrity persona and shows “in essence, that it’s all a facade, an act, a well-designed for-profit creation, maintained and manicured at all cost.”
In the court papers, Naughright’s attorneys accused Manning of placing his butt, testicles and rectum on her face while she was inspecting his ankle at the university’s locker room in 1996. But though King labeled the incident a sexual assault in his article, when Naughright first filed a complaint against Manning, she made no mention of physical contact.
Manning contended that he was attempting to “moon” a track-and-field athlete named Malcolm Saxon who was present during his training session. Saxon later disputed that Manning was attempting to moon him, and urged the athlete to come clean about the incident. Saxon did not, however, allege that Manning made contact with Naughright.
Naughright settled with the University of Tennessee for $300,000 in 1997. But she sued Manning in 2002 after the quarterback and his father, former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, referred to the “mooning incident” in a book they co-wrote.
Though the book did not mention Naughright by name, it referred to her as having a “vulgar mouth.” A manuscript of the book was sent by an unknown person to Naughright’s boss as Florida Southern College, where she served as an assistant professor. Naughright was fired from that job and sued the Mannings for defamation. They entered a settlement for an undisclosed sum.
But King’s article went farther than accusing Manning of sexual assault. The activist-columnist also condemned the media of covering up the story in order to protect Manning because he is a hero to white football fans.
“I wondered to myself,” King writes in his article, “Why — and how — had all of this been kept secret for so long?”
King’s critics accused him of targeting Manning because of a Black Lives Matter agenda. They also took umbrage at King’s assertion that his article broke new news. In fact, other outlets, like USA Today, had reported Naughright’s 74-page court filing back in 2003. But the reports have largely been forgotten because they were published before the Internet era.
The accusations against Manning were also revisited in a Daily Beast article published earlier this month, before the Super Bowl. But that article did not go viral, as King’s did. It also did not contain the dramatic language and conspiratorial tone that King’s piece did.
“Why didn’t we treat it like the crime of the century?” Lupica asked Sunday. “Because it wasn’t the crime of the century.”
Lupica said that it is indisputable that Manning did “something dumb” that day in the locker room with Naughright and by mentioning the incident later in his book.
But he lamented that King’s report and the stories that have followed are “what happens in the modern world where we confuse journalism and actual new reporting and coverage of the coverage.”