When the date was set for NFL superstar Peyton Manning to announce his retirement during a Monday afternoon press conference, many in the media community wondered if anyone would dare to ask the question that was on everyone’s mind. The press conference was designed to be a massive celebration, commemorating the accomplishments of one of the greatest to ever play the game. However, amidst this backdrop swirled controversy regarding an incident that occurred in 1996 in which Manning was accused of sexual misconduct.
USA TODAY sports reporter Lindsay Jones bravely chose to ask the question that was on everyone’s mind, inquiring about the sexual harassment allegations. She asked Manning for his thoughts on the sexual assault incident that took place during his college days at Tennessee University. Here is the exchange between Jones and Manning and some of the Twitter reaction that followed.
Given the celebratory nature of the press conference, many have questioned whether Jones’ decision to question Manning about these allegations during the press conference was fair or out of bounds. In fact, Jones has been subjected to numerous nasty social media attacks because of her choice to ask the question.
Personally, I believe that she was the only reporter that showed any journalistic integrity that day. The retirement press conference offered the media its first chance to directly question Manning about the allegations. The story had dominated the news cycle for days. Public interest mandated that the question should be asked and the duty of the media is to be the voice that speaks on behalf of the public. The media’s duty is to ask questions to power even when those questions are unpopular. To seek truth and resist the temptation to conform for the sake of a moment.
I personally believe that Peyton Manning is a great man who deserves adulation for his football accolades, philanthropic activities and community service. However, my reverence for this man does not change my belief that Lindsay Jones was the only journalist in the room who was brave enough to fulfill her journalistic duty that day.