NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The longtime USA Today columnist who wrote about sexual assault allegations against Peyton Manning more than 12 years ago says she’s as surprised as anyone that the story has resurfaced the way it has.

In November 2003, Christine Brennan wrote about the 1996 incident inside a University of Tennessee training room. A female trainer, Jamie Naughright, claims 20-year-old Peyton Manning forced his genitals onto her face as she was examining his foot. Manning said he pulled his pants down to moon another athlete but that Naughright inadvertently moved her head to his pelvic region.

Manning and Naughright reached two settlements, one over the initial incident and another in 2003 after he mentioned it in his and his father’s autobiography.

The story grew new legs earlier this month when, in the days after Manning’s second Super Bowl win, New York Daily News columnist Shaun King wrote about the nearly 20-year-old incident, citing Brennan’s column, a USA Today article days before and a 74-page court document filed by Naughright’s lawyers.

The Denver Broncos quarterback’s name also was mentioned in a lawsuit filed this month by six women against the University of Tennessee over the way the school has handled reports of sexual assaults by student-athletes.

Brennan said she believes the advent of social media has a lot to do with why the allegations against Manning are gaining more attention today.

“Basically, when I wrote about this, it was as if no one cared,” Brennan told WFAN’s Lori Rubinson. “And as a journalist, you put it out there, and the chips fall where they may. People care, people don’t care, people get mad, people do something, they don’t – that’s not the journalist’s job. We do it, and if it’s interesting, if it moves someone to do something, if people are outraged or happy or whatever the topic might be, that’s up to the people that read it.”

Brennan said she mentioned the incident in several radio interviews leading up Super Bowl 50 when she was asked about the legacy of Manning, who is considering retirement.

“It’s not that I ignored it or forgot about it, but I’m as mystified as you why it didn’t resonate,” she said. “But I also understand the incredible power of social media to have something spread like wildfire.

“I do think it could be very troublesome for Peyton Manning moving forward,” Brennan added. “These allegations are so troubling that, even though they’re 20 years old, I think they’re almost as if they hit yesterday because, for many people, they did hit yesterday.”


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