Reggie Bush is in the news again. This time though its not about doing flips while scoring touchdowns for the New Orleans Saints. Published reports suggest that audio tapes exist of Bush and or members of his family striking a deal with a start-up sports marketing firm for thousands of dollars under the table while Bush was still enrolled at USC. A federal prosecutor is looking into allegations that the firm – New Era Sports and Entertainment – attempted to extort money from Bush after Bush decided to sign with another firm when he announced he was turning pro last year. New Era contends it provided a home and cash as part of a loan to Bush’s family in exhange for a promise that Bush sign with the sports marketing firm after he left USC. For the record Reggie Bush has consistantly contended he’s done nothing wrong.
Bush just completed his first season with the New Orleans Saints helping lead the team to its first ever NFC championship game last Sunday against the Chicago Bears. Although the Saints lost the game Bush’s spectacular play and his contributions to the hurricane recovery efforts in New Orleans during the season have been hailed by just about everyone. But with unanswered questions about whether Bush and his family took money while he was playing football at USC his quick start in the pros may be slowing to a crawl, tarnishing the sparkling image he’s crafted since winning the 2005 Heisman Trophy.
There is also the possibility that Bush’s problems could cost his school the national championship it won while Bush was a sophomore and could cost Bush the Heisman Trophy he won 14 months ago. While Bush is the focus of all of this attention very few people are talking about the real villains – New Era Sports and its principles Lloyd Lake and Michael Michaels. Making this even more ludicrous is the fact New Era Sports is apparently not being charged with making the alleged illegal inducements to Reggie Bush and his family. The firm is only being investigated for attempting to essentially blackmail Bush and extort money from him. This is ridiculous.
Let me be clear I do not condone athletes taking money under the table. But I have a much bigger problem with agents, marketing firms, boosters and others who illegally induce vulnerable, often cash-strapped athletes and their families into violating college rules. These illegal deals are almost always instigated by folks who absolutely should know better. While schools and athletes often take the fall, corrupt agents and other sheisters get very little attention or blame for the trouble they cause. These vultures are seemingly allowed to go after just about any athlete they please with little or no repercussions for it. There ought to be laws against illegal under the table payments with the vultures that think up the schemes bearing most of the blame and all of the potential jail time.
I’m not saying Reggie Bush and his family didn’t put themselves in a very bad position. And I’m not saying they didn’t have the capacity to say no to any proposition offered them by New Era Sports. But what I am saying is that without tough laws and stiff fines to end the corruption instigated by the people and organizations with dirty money who seek to curry favor with star athletes this problem will never end.