NFL Security says Bush victim of threats by agent
ESPN.com news services
The NFL Players Union and NFL Security has advised the top four teams in the NFL draft that it has been provided information indicating sports agent David Caravantes and marketing company New Era Sports used an attorney to try and force USC running back Reggie Bush to pay them $3.2 million after Bush decided not to sign with the group, sources told ESPN's Joe Schad on Thursday.
According to the sources, Caravantes threatened to reveal embarrassing personal information about the Bush family if he did not receive the money. Sources also say Caravantes tried to evict the family from a San Diego house they rented from his business associate Michael Michaels.
The NFLPA claims in a disciplinary complaint written Thursday that Brian Watkins, an attorney allegedly representing Caravantes and New Era Sports, engaged in unlawful conduct by demanding payment in at least three letters. Those letters were dated Feb. 13, March 7 and April 26, a source said. In another letter to the Bush family, dated March 2, Watkins identifies his clients as New Era Sports and Caravantes. New Era Sports marketing materials identify Caravantes as Chief Executive Officer, according to the source.
Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFLPA, confirmed Friday that the investigation of Caravantes has begun.
"I can't comment on specifics of the investigation while it is going on, according to our organization's regulations," he said. "Until the process is completed, we can't comment, other than the investigation is ongoing.
"Things like this are about the integrity of the game and our sport, and we have to make sure it is dealt with sufficiently."
Caravantes told The Associated Press on Friday "I have not heard anything'' about the NFLPA investigation. He also said: "I have had no involvement with Reggie Bush. The truth will come out."
The league's security department contacted several teams about the situation. Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, whose team has the first overall selection in Saturday's draft and will take North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams over Bush, said Thursday he was aware of the situation.
According to records found on the California Secretary of State's Web site, New Era Sports and Entertainment, LLC filed as a limited liability corporation with the state on Nov. 23, 2005. According to the records, the entity remains active and its "agent for service of process" was Phillip M. Smith Jr.
When reached by Yahoo! Sports to discuss the company, Smith ended the conversation by saying, "That's really not an issue that I want to deal with."
Caravantes said late Thursday night that Watkins does not work for him. Caravantes also said he had no knowledge of any threats made against the Bush family, including eviction from the home. Caravantes denied being employed by New Era Sports.
Calls to Watkins' office were not returned Thursday.
David Cornwell, attorney for the Bush family, would not comment on the NFLPA or NFL Security findings other than to say there was "comfort that two independent, third parties have reached the same conclusion we have."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement Friday, "Based on the information presented by Reggie Bush's attorney, our office has advised the attorney to consider referring these matters to law enforcement authorities."
The house rental is still the subject of an investigation by the NCAA and the Pac-10. Officials have contacted Bush's attorney and told him they will wait until after this weekend's NFL draft to conduct interviews on how payments were made on the house. Bush's family no longer lives there.
In an interview on ESPN on Monday, Bush did not get into specifics about the controversy but said, "when this is all said and done, everyone will see at the end of the day that we've done absolutely nothing wrong."
Also, a source close to Bush said NFL Security has contacted the top four teams in the NFL draft and told them Bush was the victim of threats.
Cornwell says that Bush had no knowledge of an agreement between his parents and Michaels, the man who owned the $750,000 home the Bush family lived in for the past year.
Bush added that his "parents leased a house like any other parent." Bush declined to say who paid the rent.
A source close to Bush told Schad that while the family had at first agreed to pay rent on the San Diego home, they quickly realized there was no way they could afford to. After falling behind on payments, the family will claim, however, that they were repeatedly told not to worry, that they would not be evicted.
Bush, the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner, chose to turn pro after his junior season with USC. He is expected to be the No. 1 pick in Saturday's NFL draft.
ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli reported Thursday that talks between Bush's representatives and the Houston Texans, the team with the top draft pick, have stalled.
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report