At hero’s retirement, reporter gets attacked for asking a tough question

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning pauses while speaking during a news conference where he announced his retirement from professional football, in Englewood, Colo., Monday, March 7, 2016. Manning finished a record-breaking 18 year career by leading the Broncos to the team’s Super Bowl 50 victory over the Carolina Panthers. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

It’s so rare that sports reporters challenge the players they cover that when one does, it becomes pretty big news.

Lindsay Jones did her job today, although she approached the 800 pound gorilla with some shyness in the room where NFL star Peyton Manning was announcing his retirement.

Manning is alleged to have committed a sexual assault while a star at the University of Tennessee. And on a day in which Manning was to recap his career, her question — though tentative — seemed appropriate.

“Over the last few weeks, there’s been a lot of talk about things that happened 20 years ago in your career or in your life. What can you say now about them?”

Manning wouldn’t say much other than it was a joyous day and he wasn’t interested in “relitigating” something that happened when he was 19.

The pushback toward Jones wasn’t at all surprising.

Football analyst Shannon Sharpe, a former player, put the question in the proper context.

“It’s not a reporter’s job to maintain a festive atmosphere at a press conference, or to ignore a big story, just because some morons think it’s poor timing,” Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky wrote this afternoon in defense of Jones. “The timing was perfect, I think: retirement is about taking stock of legacies, and Manning’s legacy has of late turned out to be complicated. The question couldn’t have been more appropriate.”

Meanwhile, Christine Brennan, a USA Today columnist who was one of the first journalists to challenge Manning’s reputation, chastised Jones’ colleagues at the news conference for not asking a single question about allegations that Manning took performance-enhancing drugs.

Related: Peyton Manning’s squeaky-clean image was built on lies, as detailed in explosive court documents showing ugly smear campaign against his alleged sex assault victim (Daily News)