An angry and hurt Eli Manning defended himself against allegations that he participated in a phony memorabilia scheme, insisting "I've done nothing wrong, and I have nothing to hide."
Speaking out on the subject for the first time -- and letting his emotions show for one of the few times in his 13-year NFL career -- Manning opened up his press conference on Thursday morning by proclaiming his innocence. He said that emails that purportedly show him participating in the scheme -- filed in Bergen County Superior Court as part of a civil racketeering suit against him, the Giants and their equipment managers -- were "taken out of context."
He said he couldn't go into details, except to say that future court filings will reveal the truth.
"I will say that I've never done what I've been accused of doing," Manning said. "I have no reason, nor have I ever had any reason to do anything of that nature. I've done nothing wrong, and I have nothing to hide. And I know that when this is all done, everybody will see the same thing."
Manning said that he is "definitely" angry at the way he's been portrayed in the media, where his integrity has been questioned on TV and in newspapers, and even on radio by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
"It's one thing to write about football or my play," Manning said. "When you're attacking my integrity it definitely makes me angry.
"I think my track record of how I've handled myself since I've been here in New York since 2004 speaks for itself. I've tried to do everything with class and be a standup citizen. That's what I have done."
Manning, the Giants, equipment manager Joe Skiba and Steiner Sports have been accused by three memorabilia collectors of selling fake "game-worn" equipment and billing it as authentic. According to the New York Post, emails from Manning were filed as part of the lawsuit in which he requests "2 helmets that can pass as game used" from Skiba.
Manning's name has been caught up in this suit since it was first filed in 2014, so it's not new to him. But the release of his email turned up the heat in the media, which is what prompted him to speak out.
"I've been dealing with it a long time," Manning said. "But just more angry than anything, it's having to deal with it and knowing that I've done nothing wrong and still being attacked."
Manning insisted that he believes "It will all work out. I think when it all does I'll be cleared of this and everybody will see that I've done nothing wrong."
In the meantime, he's just a little surprised at the public rush to judgement, considering his career has been scandal-free.
"For sure. Definitely," Manning said. "I've done everything the right way. I've been a standup citizen. Obviously someone starts something up and everybody turns against you very quickly, it hurts a little bit."