Lawsuit alleging Tennessee 'hostile sexual environment' cites Manning incident
Peyton Manning is among the athletes cited in a lawsuit filed by a group of women alleging that the University of Tennessee has violated Title IX regulations and created a "hostile sexual environment" through a policy of indifference toward assaults by student-athletes.
The Tennessean first reported the lawsuit and Manning's involvement.
The federal suit filed Tuesday in Nashville states Tennessee's policies made students more vulnerable to sexual assault and had a "clearly unreasonable response" after incidents that caused the women making complaints to endure additional harassment. The suit also states the university interfered with the disciplinary process to favor male athletes.
The Tennessee lawsuit alleges that in 1996, when Manning was the Volunteers' quarterback, he placed his naked genitals on the face of a female athletic trainer while she was examining him for an injury. Manning has denied that he assaulted the trainer, saying instead that he was "mooning" a teammate. Manning was never the subject of a police investigation in the incident.
The trainer, Dr. Jamie Naughright, later sued Manning. In documents filed on her behalf in the case, the player whom Manning says he was "mooning," Malcolm Saxon, refuted Manning's account. Naughright's lawsuit against Manning was settled in 1997 with the agreement that she leave the university.
Manning later wrote an autobiography, "Manning: A Father, His Sons and a Football Legacy," in which he claimed that Naughright had a "vulgar" mouth and described her and his interactions with her at Tennessee in an unflattering light. In 2003, Naughright again sued Manning and his father, Archie Manning, ghost writer John Underwood and HarperCollins Publishers Inc. The Tennessee lawsuit references a USA Today article about the matter; however, on Saturday, the New York Daily News published a more detailed description of both of Naughright's lawsuits, including her "facts of the case" filing in the 2003 defamation lawsuit.
There have been several sexual assault complaints made against Tennessee student-athletes over the past four years. The lawsuit against Tennessee names 10 players, including former football players Manning, A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams. The latter two were indicted on aggravated rape charges in February 2015 and have separate trial dates this summer.
The suit was filed by David Randolph Smith, a lawyer representing six unidentified plaintiffs, against the University of Tennessee and the director of the office of student conduct and community standards. No individuals were named as defendants in the complaint.
The suit also states that Tim Rogers, a former vice chancellor for student life, stepped down in 2013 "in protest over the violation of Title IX and the UT administration's and athletic department's deliberate indifference to the clear and present danger of sexual assaults by UT athletes."
Bill Ramsey, a lawyer representing the school, said in a statement the university "acted lawfully and in good faith" in the situations outlined in the complaint. Ramsey said the school "has devoted significant time and energy to provide a safe environment for our students, to educate and raise awareness about sexual assault and to encourage students to come forward and report sexual assault."
The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights also launched an investigation into sexual violence at Tennessee on June 29. No further details of the investigation have been made public.
Smith, speaking Tuesday, said he was surprised at the attention the complaint's brief mention of Manning generated. He said he included events from the last two decades to show how Tennessee has handled reports of misconduct.
"We included one small paragraph about the Manning situation in the complaint, just as part of the overall background and history,'' Smith said. "... Peyton Manning is not a party to our lawsuit. All these reports that say he's in the lawsuit, well he's referenced, but it's part of the historical'' background.
This suit comes two weeks after Florida State settled a Title IX lawsuit with former student Erica Kinsman, who said the school failed to adequately investigate allegations that she was raped by former Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston. The Heisman winner and No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft has said the allegations are false and that he and Kinsman had consensual sex. No charges were ever filed against Winston, as prosecutors said there wasn't enough evidence to win a conviction and that there were gaps in Kinsman's story.
Title IX is a federal statute that bans discrimination at schools that receive federal funding. The U.S. Department of Education warned schools in 2011 of their legal responsibilities to immediately investigate allegations of sexual assault, even if the criminal investigation has not concluded.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.