There aren’t many new revelations to divulge from the Peyton Manning/Al Jazeera America face-off, even when there’s actual breaking news to digest.
According to a USA TODAY report, Manning – who recently retired as a two-time Super Bowl champion (one with the Colts, one with the Broncos), five-time NFL MVP and the league’s all-time passer (in numerous categories) – has apparently decided not to pursue legal action against Al Jazeera, in lieu of a controversial documentary from December (“Secrets of Sports Doping”), claiming a member of the Manning household purchased a form of human growth hormone (HGH).
Other pro athletes, namely Major League Baseball players Ryan Zimmerman (Washington Nationals) and Ryan Howard (Philadelphia Phillies), were cited in the Al Jazeera report, which primarily used a hidden camera on a source (Charlie Sly, a former intern at the Indianapolis-based Guyer Institute) to unearth some performance-enhanced-related nuggets about the Manning family.
(The accuracy/inaccuracy of Sly’s various claims are still not definitive.)
The pro-Peyton crowd would read the above statement and likely make two deductions:
a) Manning doesn’t want his family’s private medical records to become public knowledge.
b) It’s not worth Peyton’s time, effort and money to bring this matter to court. Especially now that he’s retired from professional football.
The anti-Peyton crowd, in turn, would likely focus on one aspect:
a) The Manning family – specifically Peyton (major neck surgery in 2011) or wife, Ashley Manning – must be guilty of something … otherwise, they’d be suing Al Jazeera for every penny.
Here’s a dose of reality: It’s eminently possible that both camps (pro-Peyton/anti-Manning) may feel justified and unjustified at the same time, simply because libel lawsuits are extremely difficult to win in court, even when the plaintiff is 99.9 percent innocent of the requisite claims.
And if Manning has designs on working for an NFL franchise (part-owner or high-ranking executive), he could be subject to drug-related testing – if the Al Jazeera report can be substantiated.
In other words, it’s not in the best interest of either party to pursue this matter in a high-profile and thus expensive court setting. Here’s why:
**Al Jazeera has already garnered a ton of media publicity (in North America and abroad) for its report; and the media company would accrue more credibility, if Manning never follows through on the suit.
**There’s a large faction of sports fans who only follow football during the season. In that vein, Manning’s blustery claims of innocence to ESPN on Dec. 27 – the day before a Bengals-Broncos clash on Monday Night Football – remains the touchstone memory of this whole debacle.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and Fox Sports.