The latest news in the Peyton Manning-Jamie Naughright "mooning saga" came Wednesday via Robert Klemko with MMQB, finally adding more depth and honest reporting to a situation that has needed it from the start.
That depth begins with an interview with Manning's former University of Tennessee teammate and roommate Greg Johnson who also was apparently in the training room in 1996. This is the first time he has been interviewed by anyone.
Seeking answers from all involved and without agenda, Klemko also talked to numerous people all over the country - former friends of both parties, coworkers, journalists and even lawyers. Phillip Fulmer, the coach at Tennessee at the time, and other UT administrators are quoted. Klemko even attempted to get quotes from Manning and Naughright. Novel idea, eh?
The reason most people gave for not wanting to comment in Klemko's story? They feared that Naughright would sue them.
"This is what she does. She sues people for money," Gretchen Anglero told Klemko. Anglero is a former friend of Naughright and owner of Deli Delicacies, which Naughright attempted to sue.
A new eye witness comes forward
Johnson told Klemko that after the New York Daily News story hit the Internet, he reached out to Manning expressing his willingness to talk to a reporter off the record. Now a law enforcement officer, Johnson told Klemko he was reticent to be identified because of his occasional role as an undercover investigator. Klemko and MMQB were put in touch with Johnson through Manning's representatives.
For those who want to question Johnson on his motives or why he didn't comment sooner, he told Klemko he was on an overseas tour of duty and unaware of the stateside news in the chaotic aftermath of 9/11 and subsequent invasion of Iraq. Johnson was part of the Marine contingent involved in the rescue of American prisoner of war Jessica Lynch. The lawsuits in 2002 and 2003 were not news in Iraq.
"They really didn't report much about Peyton in the Iraqi Desert Times," Johnson quipped to Klemko.
Johnson didn't give much thought to the "mooning" and told Klemko he never imagined he would talk about it 20 years later. It just wasn't a big deal in his life.
Yet here we are.
Johnson was in the training room when the incident occurred. The senior linebacker and special teams player in 1996 told Klemko that he entered the training room and saw Manning leaning on one elbow on a training table while Naughright (at that time Whited), then the assistant trainer, examined Manning's foot from behind. He told Klemko:
"(Malcom) Saxon walks in, and Peyton was the kind of guy who had to be friendly with everyone; he wanted to include everyone, from his teammates to the cross country guy. He says hey to Saxon and pulls down the back of his shorts, and I saw one butt cheek, and then he pulled his pants up. And Jamie said something like, ‘Aw, you're an ass.' Then I left. Thought nothing of it."
Johnson added to Klemko that he saw no physical contact between Manning and Naughright while he was present.
"It just didn't happen," Johnson said.
Klemko's story continued:
"Later someone in the administration asked me what happened. They asked if Peyton mooned somebody. They said you can't do that with a female trainer present. Next thing I know, Peyton is banned from the chow hall. He took his punishment; as 20-year-olds we understood that you can't do that."
Klemko also sought out Saxon, the one person who was the only legit aspect for Naughright in any of this. The reason for that is a letter Saxon wrote to Manning in 2002 after Manning's book was published that led to the first lawsuit. In that letter, Saxon told Manning: "You might as well admit to what happened and maintain some dignity." In the letter, Saxon said he lost his eligibility over his refusal to amend his account.
As Klemko said in his story:
"Yet the letter doesn't specify what exactly Saxon did see, and in an affidavit filed for the 2003 suit he describes Manning dropping his trousers in Naughright's presence but does not elaborate on how the incident was something other than mooning. In neither the letter nor the affidavit does he mention physical contact between Manning and Naughright."
When Klemko reached Saxon at his home in Jackson, Miss., he said he wanted to set the record straight but didn't want to put himself even more in the "scandal."
"I've said all I can say," Saxon said.
As for Naughright herself, Klemko reports that a week before the Super Bowl she called Manning's parents and left a message.
Based on the 74-page "statement of facts" from Naughright in her 2003 lawsuit, the impression was that Naughright was an angel who never said a bad word and was highly offended by typical locker room behavior.
You can't receive a 74-page civil complaint, take it at face value, and write it up without contacting people named in it.— Robert Klemko (@RobertKlemko) March 2, 2016
Klemko, who listened to the recording, wrote that "the woman uses coarse and offensive language, some of it sexual in nature, to describe members of the Manning family and threatens to ‘release all these documents' related to Manning."
Klemko added that with regard to "all these documents," MMBQ learned that a woman claiming to be Naughright was in talks with a major news outlet before the Daily News story, and as in the Manning voicemail, promised to release them. The outlet, which wasn't named, said through a vetting process that that woman was Naughright.
From this it seems highly possible that the 74-page document Shaun King used to smear Manning in his original New York Daily News story two weeks ago came from Naughright. In fact, she admitted such to Tom Stokes.
Stokes, owner and founder of Sports Plus in Dallas, told Fox Sports' Clay Travis that he has a phone recording of Naughright saying she leaked the documents to King because she's broke and needs the money. Travis also confirmed that Naughright's home is currently in foreclosure.
"The mouth on this woman is phenomenal," Stokes told Travis. "She is bipolar or schizophrenic. This woman has mental issues that only a psychologist can resolve."
Travis also interviewed Brian Farmer, who was a Facebook friend of Naughright. Farmer was a distinguished Tennessee State Trooper from 1990-2002 and was at UT when the "mooning" occurred. He told Travis that Naughright sent him a message on Facebook but after a few conversations, things got weird. Farmer blocked Naughright on Facebook only to have her text and call him until he blocked her number too.
That didn't sit well with Naughright. She started telling everyone that Farmer was gay or bisexual. "I really hope the young girl gets some professional help and gets her life straightened out," he told Travis, adding, "She had the most vulgar mouth of any female that I have ever met."
Some of Klemko's interviews confirm the same. Barbara McNeely, who worked at the UT-Knoxville Student Health Clinic as a nursing supervisor during Naughright's time there, told Klemko her dealings with Naughright were "rude and crude." McNeely told Klemko that Naughright included the nickname "Bumper" when introducing herself.
"She'd say, ‘People call me Bumper because I have such big tits,' and then she'd grab them and shake them," McNeely said.
Naughright had cited in her 1996 complaint against the university the unwelcome use of that nickname by Tennessee players and staff, Klemko reported. It was listed as one of the 33 instances of harassment that contributed to a discriminatory work environment. Those 33 claims - which also included the "mooning" - were the basis for Naughright's $300,000 settlement with UT in 1996.
Klemko also talked to people who thought Naughright was very professional in the time they worked together. However, only one would go on the record to say anything positive about her - Dr. Larry Padgett, an orthopedic surgeon who consulted with Naughright on the company she co-owned (My Time Yoga). He worked with her on several other projects in the early 2000s, Klemko reported.
Reached at his house in Winter Haven, Fla., where Padgett said his professional experiences with Naughright were overwhelmingly positive, he told Klemko:
"The thing I would say is, at least on a professional level, around patients, clients, on various projects or at Florida Southern - through all of that time, Jamie was always very professional, very smart, very good at what she did. And the patients seemed to like her very much."
Klemko's story said that was a popular sentiment among those who had worked with Naughright. Klemko added that while some of those interviewed on and off the record had issues with her personal demeanor, most agreed she was a highly capable athletic trainer and doctor with a tremendous reputation among patients.
"I'm not too worried about speaking with (MMQB)," McNeely told Klemko, "because after 20 years of maligning the Mannings, it is time for someone to have the courage to tell the truth about Naughright. If you ask anyone who dealt with her at that time, you will probably hear the same thing. It's just a shame what she's done to Peyton."
Klemko spent two weeks on this story, and as Peter King said on Twitter, the MMQB reporter went from Mississippi to Georgia to Tennessee to Florida.
Is there more to this story? Perhaps, but we likely won't ever know since neither side wants to talk (or can, given the nondisclosure agreement both signed).
More than anything, we should thank Klemko for adding balance and reporting to this story.