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Peyton Manning says he’ll “probably” sue over HGH allegations

Earlier on Sunday, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning described the HGH allegations made against him as “defamation,” a legal term of art that invites the question of whether he plans to sue.

Peter King of and NBC’s Football Night in America asked Manning whether he’ll sue, and here’s what Peyton told King: “Yeah, I probably will. I’m that angry.”

Of course, no lawsuit or any other strategy should be pursued based solely to diffuse anger. Filing a defamation case, which for a public figure involves a very high standard of proof, is one of the worst things to do in anger, because the pre-trial discovery process can lead to plenty of added frustration. Much of the plaintiff’s private life becomes fair game, with defense lawyers entitled to explore plenty of seemingly irrelevant facts in order to determine the plaintiff’s reputation before the alleged falsehood harmed the plaintiff’s image. Also, any claim for damages based on emotional distress arising from the false allegations invites a wide range of personal questions regarding other sources of stress in the plaintiff’s life, and regarding how the alleged stress from the defamatory statement affected overall happiness and well-being.

Before anyone gives Manning advice on how to proceed, someone needs to explain to him the potential consequences of suing. Presumably, someone explained to Manning the potential consequences of hiring Ari Fleischer to provide crisis-management P.R. advice -- and the potential consequences of issuing (and cajoling the issuance of) multiple statements disputing the story.

If Manning had said nothing about the allegations, how many mainstream news outlets would have ignored it? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I decided not to mention it until Manning issued a statement denying it. If Manning, the Broncos, the Colts, Manning’s agent, and Dr. Dale Guyer had said nothing, there’s a chance that plenty of media outlets would have said nothing, too.

Before making a final decision on whether he’ll sue Al Jazeera or anyone else, Manning needs to consider the question of whether fighting the charge that publicly does more harm that good by: (1) making more and more people aware of the report; and (2) ensuring that it will remain a periodic part of the NFL news cycle for months.