On Monday, March 7th, Peyton Manning officially announced his retirement after playing 18 seasons in the National Football League. While most retirement announcements are met with nostalgia and best wishes from former and current players, Peyton’s proved to be low key. This being due to former allegations of sexual assault during his time at the University of Tennessee being thrust into the national spotlight as well as controversy as to whether he used human growth hormone to enhance his function during his collegiate years.
These allegations are nothing to take lightly and when the world waited for Peyton to come to his own defense regarding these claims, he stood silent. Peyton could not even be bothered to send out a thank you to fans for their support over the years – which put all fans, especially the lifelong Manning fans, on edge.
Peyton Manning himself has never had trouble with PR; he’s got a natural flair for it by making light of himself. So sports fans and publications alike waited in anticipation for The Sheriff to fire off a statement and that moment finally arrived with the announcement of his retirement. A retirement announcement that came as a surprise to no one who follows the NFL after battling countless back-to-back physical injuries.
His retirement announcement came during a broadcast of the Sentinel Sports Page Radio Show, hosted by Clyde Davis, a FOX/NFL Network Analyst and fellow Tennessee Vol. His press conference was filled with thanks and appreciation for the game of football, for the fans and all those who helped him along the day. But regarding the allegations, there was no word – that is, until USA Today reporter, Lindsay Jones, asked him straight out about the allegations at Tennessee. To which, Peyton decided to punt the question with the below response:
“First off, this is a joyous day and nothing can overtake from this day. I think it is sad some people don’t understand the truth and the facts. I did not do what has been alleged. I’m not interested in re-litigating something that happened when I was 19 years old. I can’t say it any plainer than that. Like Forrest Gump said, ‘That’s all I have to say about that.'”
As we can see, his statement regarding the allegations was thoroughly prepared and though he did not address it during his retirement speech, he certainly knew he would be fielding this question one way or another. From reading between the lines, you can see Peyton is a PR pro. He took control of his narrative and essentially scolded anyone who dare question him while also making light of the situation by referencing Forrest Gump at the end.
Like it or not, Peyton has put his critics on the back burner and made a way for his retirement to pull through relatively unscathed. His focus turns to the good works he’s championed throughout his career whether through the Payback Foundation helping at-risk youth in Colorado, Indiana, Tennessee and Louisiana (valued at $10 million) to establishing a Chattanooga Heroes Fund in support of marines who had been shot while working at two military centers.
This won’t be the last we hear about Peyton Manning but as of now, he’s done a great job continuing to craft his image and control his personal brand, a feat that not many have ever achieved.