Reggie Bush sues NCAA over suggestion he was part of ‘pay-for-play’ plan


(NEW YORK) — Former football star Reggie Bush and his attorneys announced Wednesday he’s suing the NCAA, claiming the organization’s past statement suggesting that he had a “pay-for-play” arrangement was defamatory.

“Most recently, the NCAA has made a statement about me, accusing me of engaging in a pay-for-play arrangement, which is 100% not true. Not only is it not true, but there’s no evidence to even support that claim,” Bush said at the press conference.

The NCAA told ESPN in 2021 that it would not reinstate Bush’s 2005 season record and would not give him back the Heisman Trophy, despite rule changes that year that allowed college athletes to get paid for their name, image and likeness.

“Although college athletes can now receive benefits from their names, images and likenesses through activities like endorsements and appearances, NCAA rules still do not permit pay-for-play type arrangements,” an NCAA spokesperson told ESPN at the time. “The NCAA infractions process exists to promote fairness in college sports. The rules that govern fair play are voted on, agreed to and expected to be upheld by all NCAA member schools.”

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, one of the lawyers representing Bush, said Wednesday that his client didn’t have a pay for play arrangement with the University of South California, but that he played for the team out of devotion to the school.

“Devotion that earned him many collegiate records and awards, including the Heisman Trophy, the highest honor bestowed on a college football player,” Crump said.

The lawsuit states that Bush’s reputation in his profession was “substantially and irreparably damaged” because of the NCAA’s statement.

“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 lawsuit reads.

A spokesperson for the NCAA told ABC News the organization “has no additional comment at this time.”

The NCAA sanctioned USC in 2010 with a two-year postseason ban, loss of 30 scholarships and forfeiture of 14 victories, including the 2004 BCS national championship, for Bush receiving gifts from a pair of sports marketers who were trying to recruit him to USC, according to ESPN.

The organization accused the two sports marketers of paying for hotels, a rent-free home where Bush’s family lived, a limousine and a new suit for Bush which he wore when he accepted his 2005 Heisman, ESPN said.

As part of the sanction, Bush had to disassociate from the school for 10 years. The disassociation period ended in June 2020, according to ESPN.

Following the NCAA’s 2021 decision to allow college athletes to get paid for their likeness, the Heisman Trust, which awards the Heisman Trophy, said if the NCAA were to restore Bush’s 2005 season record, then he would be able to get his Heisman back, according to ESPN.

Bush’s name does not appear on a list of past Heisman Trophy winners on the Heisman Trust’s website.

“Give back the Heisman to Reggie,” Levi McCathern, another of Bush’s attorneys, said at the press conference. “Give back USC’s 14 wins, but more importantly, we’re asking the public here today … give Reggie Bush his good name back.”

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