It’s been less than a week since Ole Miss released their response to the NCAA allegations against the athletic program, and the story continues to unfold. Rebel Rags has filed a lawsuit against Mississippi State’s Leo Lewis, Kobe Jones and Laremy Tunsil’s stepfather Lindsey Miller.
Rebel Rags, an Oxford-based business which specializes in Ole Miss apparel, was the basis of claims by Lewis and Jones that they received free merchandise during their recruiting process. HottyToddy.com spoke with Charlie Merkel, the attorney for Rebel Rags, who confirmed that the lawsuit is seeking to recover damages and harm caused by false claims by the three individuals named.
A copy of the lawsuit confirms that the three are being sued for defamation, civil conspiracy and commercial disparagement stemming from false statements made to the NCAA during the investigation. Lewis and Jones were interviewed multiple times by NCAA officials, and Rebel Rags believes the inconstancies in the individual’s accounts and objective documentary evidence demonstrates the false nature of the defendant’s accounts.
Rebel Rags is referred to as “Booster 8” in Ole Miss’ response. Allegation 9 in the response is dedicated to Lewis’ (Student Athlete 39), Jones’ (Student Athlete 40) and Miller’s (Family Member 1) claims that they received free merchandise from the retailer. Ole Miss is disputing the allegation “in its entirety.”
“The enforcement staff’s principal basis for this allegation is that three individuals claim to have received free apparel from [Booster 8], with the implication being that, if three people say the same, general thing, then that thing must be true. Yet, there is no proof that corroborates the claims of [Family Member 1], [Student-Athlete 39], or [Student-Athlete 40] that each of them received free merchandise from [Booster 8], much less at the direction of a football staff member.
Not a single witness corroborates these claims – in fact, every other witness denies it, including those closest to the prospects and without University affiliation. [Booster 8] purchase records from the specific dates [Student-Athlete 39] and [Student-Athlete 40] claim to have received hundreds of dollars of merchandise also objectively disprove their claims. Finally, it is important to note that the enforcement staff previously investigated the [Family Member 1] and [Student-Athlete 40] allegations and did not find them sufficiently credible to support an allegation. [Student-Athlete 39’s] claims are no different.”
Merkel noted that that Lewis and Jones have never been cross-examined, and that the granting of immunity led to false claims. Rebel Rags’ lawsuit is separate from Ole Miss’ case with the NCAA, but there are similarities in the defense in that both Ole Miss and Rebel Rags characterize the testimony of the individuals as false. Ole Miss’ response singles Lewis out and references that his testimony doesn’t seem to add up.
“In critical part, [Student-Athlete 39’s] testimony was either contradicted or not corroborated by his friends and family and, in several instances, refuted by objective facts. Nevertheless, the enforcement staff, and thus the Notice, embrace all of [Student- Athlete 39’s] accusations.”
Barney Farrar’s name has consistently come up in the unfolding story of the NCAA’s investigation of Ole Miss. While Farrar is no longer employed by the University, he is sill in the midst of the situation. In his response the NCAA, he echoes Rebel Rags’ sentiments as well.
“It is known that since day one of this investigation [name redacted] has yet to tell the same story twice.” Farrar’s response reads.
While the lawsuit currently contains three names, Merkel referenced 15 potential John Doe defendants whose involvement has yet to be determined.
Merkel noted that his clients have received hate mail and threats of boycotts from fans believing them to be at fault for Ole Miss’ situation. Damages are claimed at the bottom of the lawsuit mentioning that Rebel Rags’ business model depends on the ability to sell licensed merchandise. The suit claims that the defendants acted with “actual malice” or reckless disregard for the truth.
As with any legal proceedings, the timeline cannot be definitively predicted. Merkel mentioned that those named have 30 days to respond. A trial date won’t be set for at least six months, and a trial would most likely take place in the summer of 2018.
Steven Gagliano is the managing editor of HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.