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Bill Polian: Peyton Manning Is Victim Of Smear Campaign

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- If you were to ask former Colts GM and president Bill Polian what he thinks of the latest Peyton Manning news, he'd tell you that his former quarterback is the victim of a smear campaign. And the beneficiary of that campaign? That would be the "so-called or alleged victim."

That's what Polian said on "The Freddie Coleman Show" on ESPN Radio this week, in an interview in which Polian defended his former quarterback 100 percent.

"It's important, I think, to recognize what is fact and what is advocacy. And I'm probably being charitable in saying that, using that word," Polian began his answer when asked about the latest news, which includes details about an alleged sexual assault in 1996 as well as a defamation of character lawsuit against Manning from 2003 and the alleged efforts of the Manning family to discredit the alleged victim.

Polian continued: "First of all, Peyton Manning has absolutely nothing, zero to do with the Title IX investigation or alleged violations at Tennessee. Absolutely nothing. And to conflate the two would be absolutely wrong, and we all know it's going to happen. So let's get that right up front that he has absolutely nothing to do with whatever has happened at the University of Tennessee in this last little while."

In fact, Manning does have something to do with the recent lawsuit filed against the University of Tennessee, in that he is named in the suit. That news is available on the website of Polian's current employer, ESPN.

Polian then explained the documents that are currently circulating the Internet.

"Secondly, on the document that has been referred to on numerous blog sites that I've seen (only one in the mainstream media that I've seen), is a 74-page document written by the lawyers of a young lady who sued Peyton and his dad, Archie, for defamation," Polian said. "I am not aware of how that suit was settled or what the outcome of the suit was, and I haven't read anything about that. But this is a document that was an advocacy document, allegations, if you will, that were made by the person's lawyer 13 years ago about an incident that took place 20 years ago and has now surfaced obviously at the behest of that lawyer or his client when Peyton is in the news and arguably receiving lots and lots of positive press."

To be clear, Polian believes the push of positive press for Manning in the wake of Super Bowl 50 has prompted either the victim's lawyer or the victim herself to send court documents to a New York Daily News writer. In fact, The Daily Beast chose to mention the story on its own in the week before the Super Bowl, in part due to the recent allegations of Manning using HGH.

Nevertheless, Polian said Manning is just the victim of a smear campaign.

"That document is parsed by people, excerpted by people, and they weigh in on it. That to me fits the definition of a smear. And that's what it is, plain and simple," Polian said. "It doesn't deserve any more notice than any other smear that someone would make."

Polian continued: "It's just a question of a person who's lived a great life, great professional life, contributed to every community he's ever been in, including the University of Tennessee, where a street is named after him. Peyton Manning Way. And it's just an attempt to gain notoriety for others by smearing a good person, in my opinion."

Certainly, one person in this situation was smeared, but to Polian, it was not the person who was subjected to some form of an unwelcome, nude advance in a trainer's room. Instead, the person smeared was the person who admitted to doing something wrong but then said the victim should have taken it as a joke.

Peyton Manning, Bill Polian
Bill Polian congratulates Peyton Manning after the Broncos won Super Bowl 50. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Polian, now retired from football and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, said that he is biased, because he drafted Manning and worked with him for 14 years, and "the guy did everything that was asked of him and more, was a model citizen for us, for the community in which he lived." Polian admitted that he never spoke to Manning about the specific event when vetting the quarterback before drafting him No. 1 overall in 1998, and he seems to believe that despite an admission of a less-severe offense, despite a punishment being administered to Manning, and despite numerous settlements out of court, nothing at all happened.

"This was apparently -- I say apparently -- an incident that was a the subject of a defamation suit that the so-called or alleged victim brought against Peyton and Archie after they wrote a book -- which, by the way, I have not read," Polian said. "All I can tell you is everything we heard from people at the University of Tennessee was absolutely glowing."

Polian perhaps doesn't see the irony in referring to the folks at Tennessee who are accused of creating a "hostile sexual environment" as the same folks who provided such positive character reviews of Manning in the first place. And he also likely fails to realize that harping on words like "apparently" and "so-called victim" only feed into the issues that result in things like the Title IX lawsuit at Tennessee existing in the first place.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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