With the playoffs approaching, Peyton Manning probably just wants to get healthy and focus on football, but that is going to be awfully difficult for the foreseeable future. That’s because Al Jazeera has linked Manning to an HGH probe, alleging that he was given a supply of the performance-enhancing drug in 2011.
The only problem? Charlie Sly, the man making these allegations, has recanted his statements.
What can – or should – the 39-year-old Manning do in response?
“Well, right now, I think the biggest issue is it doesn’t appear he’s facing any kind of NFL sanction, even if his career continues beyond this season,” legal analyst and Ohio University Professor and Director of Sports Administration Robert Boland said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I think the issue is how does he defend his legacy, and that is can he sue anyone for defamation?”
He can, yes. But should he?
“Obviously the most logical target would be Al Jazeera,” Boland said. “They’re deep-pocketed. The problem with a public figure suing any media defendant is a Supreme Court doctrine that came up in the 1960s in the Times v Sullivan case that basically said if it’s a newsworthy issue involving a public figure, then the news service has to have clearly aired what’s called a committed actual malice, which is basically to have known it was wrong and gone ahead with the story anyway or failed to discover something that would make it clearly wrong. It doesn’t appear that Al Jazeera, at least on the face of these reports, is going to probably be liable to Manning in this situation.
“On the other hand,” Boland continued, “this gentlemen, Sly, who made all the statements, he’s a pretty easy target because now he’s gone on video with reporters and said, ‘No, no, I made it all up.’ Well, his initial statements to Al Jazeera then are on their face false and defamatory. So there are some really interesting issues about this.”
Al Jazeera, Boland explained, is an Arabian news service that has branches in England and the United States and is “very well-respected.”
“They’ve been kind enough to have me on to talk about about sports,” Boland said, “and I would tell you they’re a pretty credible journalistic news service in the Untied States right now. They’re sort of an apolitical news service, maybe a little like the BBC or Reuters or even CNN without a whole lot of bias that you get from some of the other ones that are very political.”
Manning now has a major decision on his hands. Does he let this episode slide and forget about it? Or does he pursue action knowing that his entire life will come under the microscope of a governmental investigation?
“I think that is the really fundamental question about Peyton Manning’s involvement in this,” Boland said. “He doesn’t face any sanction from the league. This is all about his legacy and his ability to exercise his post-career as a public entity: a former athlete of great virtue and great renown. So the challenge is how do you deal with this? My advice, in looking at this on the historical basis: Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez have gotten into trouble not so much from any of their actions but from their denials and their backing away from this. So if there is some truth (in any of this), probably confronting that as clearly as possible (would be the best move). . . . I think the public would still embrace him.”