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Reggie Bush to sue NCAA for defamation, wants his Heisman Trophy back

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CBS News Los Angeles Live

Former USC running back Reggie Bush along with his attorneys, announced the filing of a defamation suit against the National Collegiate Athletics Association Wednesday for alleging he participated in a 'pay-to-play' scheme.

At a Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum press conference, lawyers representing Bush said the NCAA maliciously attacked his character and damaged his reputation through their allegations and went on to further state that Bush was never paid by USC or any other entity to play for the university. 

Attorneys said it's time to hold the NCAA accountable for its maltreatment of Bush, properly compensate him for defaming his character, apologize, and vacate the sanctions so he can recover his Heisman trophy and all of his other collegiate records and titles at USC.

The star running back returned his Heisman trophy in 2010 after an NCAA investigation determined Bush had received improper benefits while playing at USC. As another consequence, the NCAA stripped USC of its 2004 national title and the school had to vacate 14 wins from 2004 and 2005, with all mentions of Bush's stats either erased or accompanied by asterisks.

The lawsuit, filed in Indiana but announced at the L.A. news conference, focuses on a July 28, 2021, statement issued by
the NCAA, in which the organization declined to reinstate Bush's collegiate records due to his involvement in a "pay-for-play arrangement." Bush's attorneys called the allegation patently false, saying he was never paid by USC or any other entity to play for the university

"Reggie Bush did not accept any kind of pay for playing for USC," civil rights attorney Ben Crump said. "The truth is, Reggie Bush played for USC out of devotion, devotion that earned him many collegiate records and awards including the Heisman Trophy, the highest honor bestowed on a college football player...And it was Reggie's devotion and the other players in college football that earned the NCAA billions of dollars -- billions of dollars." 

The phrase "pay-for-play" typically refers to athletes who would not play for a school unless they were compensated, suggesting the benefits were a factor in the recruiting process, according to the Los Angeles Times. It differs from an agent providing gifts or payment in exchange for a potential share of future professional earnings.

According to the NCAA investigation, Bush, his mother and stepfather accepted thousands of dollars in cash and free housing from a would-be marketer while Bush was playing for USC beginning in December 2004. He and his family were also given an automobile, air travel, hotel lodging, transportation and other benefits, according to the NCAA's 67-page report.

At Wednesday's press conference, Bush said he has dreams of coming back to the Coliseum and running out of the tunnel with the Trojan football team, but "I can't rightfully do that without my Heisman Trophy." 

He said his collegiate career and the success of his Trojan teams "was all torn down so easily with no factual evidence behind any of these claims." 

"And so most recently the NCAA has made a statement about me, accusing me of engaging in a pay-for-play arrangement, which is 100 percent not true," Bush said. "Not only is it not true, but there's no evidence to support that claim. ... It wasn't even part of the initial NCAA investigation. So this is a new accusation as far as I'm concerned." 

The NCAA statement regarding an alleged "pay-for-play arrangement" came in response to inquiries about a possible reinstatement of his collegiate records and return of his Heisman Trophy, following the NCAA's approval of so-called NIL rules allowing college athletes to be paid for use of their name, image or likeness, and following questions raised in separate litigation about the veracity of the NCAA's investigation that led to the penalties against USC. 

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