Egregious acts of sexual assault performed by Peyton “The Sheriff” Manning were revealed by Shaun King of the New York Daily News this past week. While sports are a wonderful diversion that allow us to take our minds off hideous acts, sports fans should not look past something like this.
This goes deeper than sports. It touches on the lack of security, lack of equality, and rampant discrimination that have plagued the sports world for a long time. Jamie Naughright, a woman who was known for her professionalism and expert-quality work, found herself out of two jobs between the years of 1999 and 2001. This was because of Peyton Manning’s word—the word of the superstar Tennessee quarterback—made Naughright’s obsolete.
During Naughright’s tenure from 1992 to 1995 at the University of Tennessee, she said, she was referred to as “c–t bumper” or “bumper” by the Tennessee football players. In addition, Manning put his exposed genitalia on the head of Naughright during an examination to see if he had a stress fracture in his foot.
What occurred behind closed doors at the University of Tennessee (UT) was a breach of Title IX, according to the lawsuit filed against UT. Title IX states that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
But what was done about it? Nothing. If you are a female or minority in sports, you are not protected. This atrocious lack of equality has gotten so bad that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell activated a “Rooney Rule” for minorities and women. The Rooney Rule stipulates that minorities must be interviewed for head coaching jobs. There are only six minority head coaches in the NFL, a sport in which a majority of players are African-American.
The rule also specifies that a woman must be interviewed for executive jobs within the league office rather than for individual franchises. While the rule stipulates that a woman must be interviewed, it never states that she must be hired. The rule is only “encouraging” NFL administrators to keep their eyes out for women, and once again shows the lack of security for women in sports.
The lack of respect for women in the sports world still has not changed. In 2010, reporter Inéz Sainz was subjected to unwanted flirtatious behavior by members of the New York Jets Organization. Even Dallas’ last season signing of free agent defensive end Greg Hardy, a man who maliciously assaulted his wife, shows that women do not receive appropriate respect from athletes and their organizations.
Another reason why sports fans should pay attention to this lawsuit is because it shows that discrimination is alive and rampant in our society even, unfortunately, in the sanctuary we call sports. The actions of Manning and others caused the workplace of Jamie Naughright to be a place full of misogyny.
The locker room of the Philadelphia Eagles under former head coach Chip Kelly seemed to be representative of the discrimination within the league. “You see how fast he got rid of all the good players. Especially all the good black players. He got rid of them the fastest. That’s the truth. There’s a reason. … It’s hard to explain with him. But there’s a reason he got rid of all the black players—the good ones—like that,” said LeSean McCoy, a former Philadelphia Eagles running back.
But the sad fact of life is that Manning will not be vilified. After two decades of being “The Sheriff”—one of the greatest quarterbacks in America’s most famous game—he most likely will not be denounced. Manning is a white man who carved out his own legacy, while minorities and women in sports are still searching for the equality that their white male counterparts posses.