Reggie Bush Files Defamation Lawsuit Against NCAA for 'Maliciously Attacking' His Character

Since 2020, the former USC running back has been determined to have his 2005 Heisman Trophy reinstated

Reggie Bush announced he has filed a defamation lawsuit against the NCAA, intended to "hold the NCAA accountable for maliciously attacking" his character, ESPN reported.

In a press conference on Wednesday in Los Angeles, the 38-year-old former USC running back said the lawsuit was over a 2021 statement made by an NCAA spokesperson claiming Bush was involved in a "pay-for-play arrangement" during his time leading the USC football team.

"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," Bush said in a press conference Wednesday at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. "Not only is it not true, but there is no evidence to even support that claim."

In 2005, Bush famously forfeited his Heisman Trophy — awarded annually to the most outstanding college football player — after an investigation found he received improper benefits as a student-athlete while attending the school. According to ESPN, Bush and his relatives accepted money and travel expenses. His parents were also given a home in Southern California where they lived rent-free for more than a year and were provided with $10,000 to furnish it.

Related: Former USC Star Reggie Bush Wants Heisman Trophy Back After NCAA Introduces Historic New Rules

After the NCAA’s rules changed in 2021 allowing athletes to profit from the use of their name, image, and likeness, Bush’s attorneys allege the organization “falsely issued a statement” regarding Bush’s "pay-for-play" involvement.

“Specifically, on July 28, 2021, the NCAA ... falsely issued a statement to 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],” Bush’s attorneys Levi G. McCathern and Ty M. Sheaks said in a statement, according to the Los Angeles Times. “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.”

Phillip Faraone/Getty
Phillip Faraone/Getty

The statement continues: “The NCAA knew Mr. Bush was never even accused of, involved in, much less sanctioned for any ‘pay-for-play arrangement’ which never occurred.”

“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," his lawyers said.

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The NCAA tells PEOPLE they have "no additional comment at this time" on the lawsuit.

In 2010, USC lost 30 football scholarships over three years as a result of the initial inquiry, and also vacated 14 victories that Bush played a part in from 2004 to 2005.

Related: Reggie Bush Says He Was 'Spiritually Broken' by Being in 'Toxic' Hollywood Spotlight

Since 2020 — when his 10-year dissociation penalty from the NCAA ended — the Fox Sports analyst and father of three has been pushing for the return of his Heisman.

"It is my strong belief that I won the Heisman trophy 'solely' due to my hard work and dedication on the football field and it is also my firm belief that my records should be reinstated," Bush said in a statement posted to social media in 2021.

He added Wednesday that the lawsuit is "about truth, getting the facts out and holding the NCAA accountable," CBS Sports reported.

"I've got dreams of coming back into this stadium and running out of that tunnel with the football team," Bush continued. "I've got dreams of walking back in here and seeing my jersey and my banner right down there next to the rest of the Heisman Trophy winners. But I can't rightfully do that without my Heisman Trophy."

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