Reggie Bush’s Attorneys Explain Defamation Lawsuit

Sep 8, 2023

Former collegiate star and NFL All-Pro Reggie Bush, through his counsel at McCathern, PLLC and Ben Crump Law, filed a lawsuit last month in Marion County, Indiana against the NCAA. The lawsuit is based on the NCAA “maliciously attacking his character through a completely false and highly offensive statement that was widely reported in the media and substantially and irreparably damaged his reputation,” according to his attorneys.

Specifically, on July 28, 2021, the NCAA, by and through its authorized spokesperson, “falsely told reporters that because of Mr. Bush’s prior involvement in a ‘pay–for–play arrangement,’ the NCAA would not consider restoring his collegiate records that it vacated in 2010, which subsequently resulted in Mr. Bush having to return his Heisman Trophy (the first player in history to do so). Within less than a day, this false statement was republished by no less than 20 different media organizations and circulated to readers around the world.

“The NCAA’s statement is completely false and highly offensive. The NCAA knew Mr. Bush was never even accused of, involved in, much less sanctioned for any “pay–for–play arrangement” which never occurred.

“Although the NCAA was previously involved in a (now-discredited) investigation that purportedly determined in 2010 that Mr. Bush accepted tangential benefits from an non-existent sports marketing agency during his time playing for USC, the NCAA and its spokesperson were aware at the time of the false statement that (i) the investigation did not conclude that Mr. Bush engaged in ‘pay-for-play’ while at USC, and (ii) there were serious flaws with the investigation that undermine its reliability to such an extent that to rely on the investigation’s findings as factual is reckless.

“The serious flaws in the NCAA’s investigation came to light through years-long litigation between the NCAA and Todd McNair, Mr. Bush’s assistant coach at USC, when he sued the NCAA for slander and defamation. Two California courts have found in the McNair litigation that NCAA investigators conducted a “sloppy” and “unprofessional” interview of the key witness in the matter— Lloyd Lake—that produced answers that “were unclear and unresponsive to the point of being unreliable and lacking in any value,” and that the NCAA Report misrepresented what Lake had told investigators and was ‘false in several material ways.’ In response, the NCAA and McNair entered into a confidential settlement agreement in July 2021.

“Mr. Bush attempted to appeal the NCAA’s penalties in 2022 after all of this came to light, but the NCAA rejected his appeal because he lacked standing and was not considered an involved individual. Rather, the NCAA took the position only USC could appeal the penalties. Recently, USC and Mr. Bush have re-submitted the appeal to the NCAA to again try to overturn the ‘sloppy’ and ‘unprofessional’ investigation that was ‘false in several material ways’ in hopes to re-establish his eligibility and restore the records and achievements earned during his time at USC.”

Bush has filed suit in Marion County, Indiana, where the NCAA has its principal office. Attorneys for Bush in this suit are Levi G. McCathern and Ty M. Sheaks of McCathern, PLLC, with additional counsel from well-known civil rights attorney Ben Crump of Ben Crump Law PLLC and Andrew W. Hull of Hoover Hull Turner, LLP.

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