By Stan Bush

DENVER (CBS4) – Peyton Manning is in the middle of a public relations crisis.

The Broncos quarterback is referenced in a lawsuit filed against the University of Tennessee claiming the school condones a “hostile sexual environment.”

The lawsuit, filed by six women who left the school, references a 1996 case where Manning allegedly placed his genitals on the head of athletic trainer Jamie Naughright during an examination. The case was settled out of court.

Peyton Manning as a member of the Tennessee Volunteers (credit: CBS)

Peyton Manning as a member of the Tennessee Volunteers (credit: CBS)

Naughright filed suit again in 2003 after the quarterback broke a non-disclosure agreement addressing the incident in the book “Manning.” The case was again settled out of court.

Manning is not the target of the current lawsuit and is not under criminal investigation.

LINK: Read The Lawsuit

It is the second time in as many months that Manning has faced questions about his credibility. In December he was accused of receiving the performance-enhancing drug human growth hormone from an Indiana clinic. The report by Al-Jazeera America alleged that Manning got the drugs delivered under his wife’s name. Manning aggressively denies the report. Al-Jazeera America continued to defend the report even as their network was shutting down.

The NFL announced a league investigation into the HGH claim before Super Bowl 50.

Peyton Manning (credit: CBS)

Peyton Manning (credit: CBS)

Manning defended himself in a taped interview with The NFL Today’s Bill Cowher.

“I welcome that investigation. And I understand when an allegation is made, that the NFL has no choice to investigate it. I get that,” Manning said. “But I can tell you what they’re going to find. A big fat nothing. It’s been completely fabricated as far as the allegations of what they suggested that I did. It’s been nothing but pure junk.”

With the non-disclosure agreements it is unlikely that new details will emerge from the 1996 incident, or even that the parties will address it. Still they have may have an effect on Manning’s post-football career, where he is one the sports world’s highest earners with endorsements from pizza to insurance.

“How the allegations hurt him is if he denies them and they turn out to be true,” says Alicia Jessop, professor at the University of Miami and a sports marketing analyst. “That would destroy him.”

Alicia Jessop (credit: CBS)

Alicia Jessop (credit: CBS)

Jessop says if Manning is guilty of what he has been accused of he could be lumped into a category with Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong. Both Woods and Armstrong denied their involvement with infidelities and doping, respectively, only to admit guilt afterwards.

Jessop says if Manning is indeed innocent then he has done well representing himself. But if the allegations are true he will have bigger problems.

“If the public perceives you as a liar it’s hard to come back from that.”

Stan Bush is a general assignment reporter at CBS4. His stories can be seen on CBS4 News at 10. Read his bio and follow him on Twitter @StanBushTV.

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