Just over two months after admitting that the story that made him famous was a lie, senior cornerback Josh Shaw has finally gone on record to explain what happened the night he sprained both ankles.
On Aug. 25, USC released a story explaining that the co-captain of the football team had sustained two ankle sprains after jumping off a balcony at his sister’s home in Palmdale, California, in an attempt to save his nephew, Carter, from drowning in the pool below.
On Thursday, Shaw admitted to Bill Plaschke of the LA Times that he did not sprain his ankles saving his nephew, but rather after getting in a loud argument with his long-time girlfriend at his apartment, which prompted neighbors to call the police.
Though both Shaw and his girlfriend, Angela Chilton, insist that the argument never escalated to physical violence, he still decided to flee from the police out of fear after his girlfriend left her apartment, while he remained inside.
“We were not on good terms when she left, I thought she had somebody call authorities. I was thinking the worst,” Shaw told Plaschke. “If she did say anything, I’m a black man with dreadlocks, and with everything going on in the country at the time, all that stuff in St. Louis [Ferguson, Mo.] … in my mind, I’m going to leap from the balcony so authorities did not see me.”
Shaw said when he jumped and landed on a grassy patch on Figueroa Street, he immediately felt pain shoot up both his legs, and feared he had broken them. Thinking he had surely ruined his season before it began, Shaw felt he needed a good excuse to tell his coaches.
“I wanted to come up with something that they would say, ‘Josh, if you got hurt, that’s a good reason to get hurt,’” he told Plaschke. “That’s where fabrication came in.”
After USC’s sports information department sat down with Shaw to vet the story, they released it to the public, and it immediately picked up national attention. Shaw was lauded for his heroism on every major news outlet, including ESPN and Fox Sports 1, who named Shaw their “Best Person in Sports” the day the story broke.
When rumors started to swirl about the story not being true, many people critiqued USC for breaking the story on its own and started to question the validity of schools’ sports information departments. But USC’s head sports information director, Tim Tessalone, insisted that the school needed to explain Shaw’s absence and took the necessary steps to vet the story.
“We have our starting cornerback being carted around campus in a wheelchair, people would be seeing it,” Tessalone told Plaschke. “We knew it was a feel-good story, but we also knew it was a news story.”
Shaw knew he had to come clean when he saw his lie broadcast on national television, but was afraid of the consequences. After gathering his family to explain what he had done, Shaw finally met with USC officials on Wednesday, Aug. 27 to explain that he had fabricated his heroic actions. The school announced that he lied and would be suspended indefinitely, but never disclosed the true cause of his injuries.
Shaw, who racked up 67 tackles and four interceptions last year, will be suspended until he is formally absolved of wrongdoing by prosecutors and by USC’s own investigators. The Trojans only have three games left this season, and it remains to be seen whether Shaw will ever come back and play another game in cardinal and gold.