The University of Tennessee wants to strike a reference to a 20-year-old training room episode involving quarterback Peyton Manning from a federal lawsuit, arguing it's "immaterial, impertinent and scandalous."
"The allegation does not involve the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs do not allege they were students at UT in 1996, nor that any of the current administrators were employed by UT at that time," the motion states.
The only purpose, UT argues, for including Manning's name in a lawsuit focused on events of the past several years involving UT students "is to unduly prejudice the University by means of negative press coverage."
Numerous national publications and organizations have reported on the lawsuit and its inclusion of Manning, who led the Denver Broncos earlier this month to a Super Bowl victory over the Carolina Panthers. The UT graduate is widely expected now to retire from the NFL.
One column in the New York Daily News about the 1996 incident and its aftermath set off an ugly Twitter fight last week between its author, Shaun King, and sports writer Jason Whitlock.
Lawyers for the university filed a response to the lawsuit Tuesday afternoon in federal court in Nashville, where the action has been filed.
Six unnamed young women filed the lawsuit Feb. 9 against the university and the director of the Office of Student Conduct & Community Standards.
The document accuses UT of failing to enforce federal laws to protect against discrimination, called Title IX, and further accuses the university of fostering a culture that protects and coddles student athletes, mainly football players and basketball players.
Attorney David Randolph Smith told 10News on Tuesday he plans to amend the lawsuit Wednesday to add two more plaintiffs and cite two more UT football players.
No athlete is a defendant in the lawsuit. Several are cited including rape defendants A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams as examples of Smith's contention that UT has failed to curb criminal behavior by athletes.
The Manning mention consists of one paragraph on the eighth page.
It states that in 1996 a trainer named Jamie Whited reported that Manning had "sat on her face" while she was assessing the extent of an injury. Whited in 1997 settled a claim with the university for $300,000. She now lives in Florida.
Manning said what Whited saw was him mooning another athlete.
In Tuesday's UT motion, the university insists reference to the 1996 incident is irrelevant to the womens' claims. Smith fails, in fact, to say why he put it in the document, UT argues.
The university refers to press reports in which Smith said the Manning episode is part of the overall background and history.
"While plaintiffs' attorney claims that the media attention this rehashing of the 1996 alleged incident has garnered is 'certainly unanticipated,' he has also made clear his intention to embark on a high-publicity fishing expedition."
UT wants to either dismiss the lawsuit or have it moved to federal court in Knoxville.
On Tuesday, UT varsity coaches met the media, defending the Athletic Department, the culture at UT and the quality of life for female athletes.
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