Archie: Defamation lawsuit should be dismissed

Updated: November 6, 2003, 2:27 AM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Former NFL quarterback Archie Manning believes his son Peyton has been punished enough for a mistake he made seven years ago and that a defamation lawsuit should have been dismissed.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the elder Manning said his son regrets dropping his pants in front of a University of Tennessee trainer and tried to apologize to her.

"He felt it was his mistake, he tried to apologize and he was remorseful," Archie Manning said Tuesday night. "He got punished and he took his punishment."

The 1996 encounter between the trainer and the Indianapolis Colts quarterback is mentioned in a book the Mannings wrote, "Manning: A Father, His Sons and a Football Legacy."

In the book, Peyton Manning says he pulled down his pants and conceded that his behavior was "inappropriate."

"Crude, maybe, but harmless," he wrote.

He also wrote that the trainer had a "vulgar mouth," which she claimed defamed her and cost her a subsequent job.

Earlier this week, a judge ruled there was enough evidence for the trainer's lawsuit against the Mannings to proceed, and a trial was set for March. Though she's not named in the book, Jamie Ann Naughright says the passages disparaged her.

Archie Manning said he was dismayed that the "feel-good" book is now the subject of legal action.

"Obviously, my wife and I and our family hurt for Peyton at a time like this," he said. "We're sad for him, especially since an incident from seven years ago seems to have gotten so twisted."

Naughright filed the lawsuit in Polk County, Fla., in 2002, two years after the book was published. In the lawsuit, she accuses Manning of placing his "naked butt" on her face while in the Volunteers' locker room. She is seeking damages of at least $15,000.

In 1997, she agreed to a $300,000 settlement with the university over 33 alleged instances of sexual harassment surrounding her job in the athletic department, and her complaint included the encounter with Manning. Manning was not personally accused of sexual harassment, and a university investigation characterized it as "horseplay."

Manning's attorney, Slade Metcalf, argued in court papers that the lawsuit should be thrown out because the passages in the book are "substantially" true. He also contends the settlement released the university, its employees and students, including Manning, from additional damages.

"That's what we feel, that's what I feel, that's the way Peyton feels," Archie Manning told the AP.

Peyton Manning declined to comment.

Naughright's attorney, Robert Puterbaugh, also wouldn't comment.

Judge Harvey Kornstein ruled Monday that there was enough evidence to suggest the Mannings, the writer and the publisher knew the passages were false and acted in reckless disregard for the truth.

The lawsuit also names writer John Underwood and publisher HarperCollins Inc.

"Peyton knows people have a right to say what they want about him," Archie Manning said. "He said what happened seven years ago and it's still true."


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press