Former football star Reggie Bush and his legal team announced on Wednesday that they are suing the NCAA for defamation, ABC News reports. The lawsuit comes after the NCAA made previous statements alleging that Bush had a “pay-for-play” arrangement while he was a college athlete at the University of Southern California (USC), claims which Bush strongly denies.
According to ABC News, despite rule changes in 2021 allowing college athletes to monetize their name, image, and likeness, the NCAA stated they would not reinstate Bush’s 2005 season record and Heisman Trophy. An NCAA spokesperson told ESPN last year, “NCAA rules still do not permit pay-for-play type arrangements.”
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Bush, countered these allegations in a press conference on Wednesday. Crump stated that Bush had no “pay-for-play” agreement with USC and instead played out of a sense of devotion to the school. This devotion led to numerous collegiate records and awards, including the prestigious Heisman Trophy, Crump emphasized.
ABC News also reports that Bush’s lawsuit alleges the NCAA’s statement has “substantially and irreparably damaged” his professional reputation. The lawsuit reads, “This action seeks to hold the NCAA accountable for its unlawful conduct and for the damages, mental anguish, humiliation, and embarrassment it has caused Mr. Bush by the NCAA’s false and defamatory statement.”
The NCAA, as of this time, has not offered further comments on the lawsuit, stating they “have no additional comment at this time,” ABC News says.
In 2010, according to ESPN, the NCAA levied severe sanctions against USC, including a two-year postseason ban, a loss of 30 scholarships, and the forfeiture of 14 victories, one of which was the 2004 BCS national championship. The sanctions were due to gifts Bush allegedly received from sports marketers looking to recruit him to USC. These gifts included hotels, a rent-free home for Bush’s family, a limousine, and a new suit for the occasion of his 2005 Heisman acceptance.
As a part of the sanctions, Bush had to disassociate from USC for a period of 10 years, which concluded in June 2020.
Following the NCAA’s rule changes in 2021, the Heisman Trust stated that Bush would be eligible to reclaim his Heisman Trophy if the NCAA reinstated his 2005 season records, according to ESPN. Levi McCathern, another attorney for Bush, made a public plea saying, “Give back the Heisman to Reggie. Give back USC’s 14 wins, but more importantly, we’re asking the public here today… give Reggie Bush his good name back.”
As of now, the NCAA has not reversed their decision regarding Bush’s records or his Heisman Trophy, and this lawsuit serves as Bush’s effort to hold the NCAA accountable and restore his tarnished reputation.