A USC football player’s application for relief via the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program has resulted in a suspension from the Trojans and a visit from federal investigators, according to Ryan Kartje of the Los Angeles Times.
The player in question is sophomore wide receiver Munir McClain, who reportedly requested PUA relief — worth at least $767 per week in California — after the COVID-19 pandemic reduced his income reselling high-end sneakers on the secondary market.
McClain said that California accepted his claim and he held onto the money, planning to invest it in an apparel brand he started alongside his siblings.
The Trojans have since suspended McClain, and the McClains reportedly aren’t sure why.
Did USC’s Munir McClain break NCAA, federal law?
McClain wasn’t requesting relief from, say, income as an unpaid football player. The Times notes that the NCAA does not bar athletes from earning income via self-employment or unemployment benefits. The PUA also allows temporary benefits for self-employed people and other part-time workers, which can include full-time students with part-time jobs.
However, one expert on unemployment insurance told the Times that many college students have been misinformed about their eligibility:
“You can’t just be a student who wasn’t working and get PUA, unless you had a job offer,” Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and national expert on unemployment insurance, said.
But with minimal scrutiny at the state level, he explained, “a lot of college students are getting it. The wrong message has gotten out there.”
As McClain’s mother told it it, he was called by Michael Blanton, USC’s vice president of ethics and professionalism, on Sept. 16 and asked if he knew about unemployment benefits from California’s Employment Development Department.
McClain was reportedly suspended two days later, and Blanton told his mother a complaint had been filed about USC students being approached with a plan to apply for EDD benefits, and McClain’s name came up. His suspension was announced Oct. 9, and he has now been suspended for more than a month.
The situation reportedly became even more surreal when McClain was visited by federal agents from the Office of Inspector General in the U.S. Department of Labor. The agents reportedly wanted to speak to McClain’s brother, Abdul-Malik, a USC linebacker with whom he shares a dorm. Other USC players were reportedly approached about McClain, as well.
The McClain family has reportedly gotten a lawyer and plans to challenge his suspension at USC.
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