Just Sunday night, the basketball world saluted Kobe Bryant, who twelve years ago was on trial for rape charges. Prosecutors ended up dropping the case, but even Bryant’s statement and apology afterwards about the non-consensual nature of the encounter makes for uncomfortable reading today.  Bryant ended up settling in the civil case against him and the case has largely been relegated to a footnote during the year-long retirement tour and celebration of his career.

What about Mike Tyson?  Tyson was convicted and served multiple years in prison for rape charges in the mid-nineties.  He then tried to bite Evander Holyfield’s ear off during a fight.  But now in 2016 he’s viewed as some kind of comedic and cultural icon.  And again, his history of sexual assault is relegated to a footnote as everyone laughs at whatever zany thing he’ll do next.

It’s impossible to predict how we would view Manning today if this story had played out differently over the last two decades and had been a more prominent part of the quarterback’s narrative.  There are double standards that exist all over the place and your ability to gain a second chance is largely dependent on how useful you are to the sports world and its fans.  If anything, the sports world has proven to be very forgiving of whatever past transgressions you may have committed as long as you can continue to win championships or entertain the masses.

There’s a reason why Adrian Peterson is still playing with the Minnesota Vikings and Ray Rice hasn’t found a job yet after their respective scandals.  Only one of them averaged 3.1 yards per carry.

Finally, Peyton Manning Can No Longer Hide From This Story

Furious.  Disgusted.  Slapstick.

Those are the words Manning used to describe the Al Jazeera report that linked him with possible HGH.  The potential controversy dissipated in shockingly quick fashion.  Naturally, much of that was caused by Al Jazeera’s sources immediately reversing course and the credibility of the report falling apart.  The report has seemingly never recovered its credibility in the public eye after the strong denial from Manning and the holes that have arisen.

during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.
during Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.

Ever since the sexual assault allegations have come back to the news cycle, the Mannings have been conspicuous by their silence.  One could say that’s because of the nature of the first settlement regarding the 1996 incident and non-disclosure issues and what not, but that apparently hasn’t stopped Manning from talking about it before, prompting two lawsuits by Naughright against Manning that were both settled.

This is a man who has hired a former White House press secretary to be a mouthpiece and apparently also has private eyes at his disposal.  There are small nations that don’t have the resources that Peyton Manning has to defend his name.  Wouldn’t you think they’d be doing… something… to mitigate all the negative attention that is coming his way?

It’s fair to say Manning has gotten a free pass from facing some hard questions surrounding these allegations over the years.  That shouldn’t be the case any longer.  When you strip away all the complexities and inconsistencies surrounding how the story has unfolded over the last twenty years, what you are left with are some shocking allegations that, if true, are reprehensible.  Sexual assault, a cover-up, a systematic attempt to defame an accuser, even trying to bring race into the picture.  It’s all unseemly.  And it’s part of Peyton Manning’s past that simply can’t be relegated to being a footnote any longer.  It will probably never happen, but regardless of whether the full truth vindicates or condemns Manning, it’s time to find out one way or the other.

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.