John Wilson and his son, Johnny Wilson, are suing Netflix for defamation due to the streamer’s portrayal and inclusion of the former Staples executive and his family in their documentary detailing the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal

John was convicted on charges in connection to the admissions scandal in 2021, a bombshell legal case that saw the convictions of more than 50 people. The charges ranged from bribery, conspiracy and fraud, with parents going to illegal and extreme lengths to ensure their children’s acceptance to prestigious universities. John, as part of the overwhelming legal battle, had his core convictions related to the Varsity Blues cases dismissed after a hearing at the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.   

In the case of the Wilson family, John was accused of paying the University of Southern California $220,000 to solidify Johnny’s place at the school via the water polo team, as well as dishing out $1 million to ensure his daughter’s acceptance to Stanford and Harvard. The executive’s legal team argued that he was under the impression he was making legitimate donations, and that no sinister intention was at play. Unlike the children of other Varsity Blues parents, John’s lawyers argued, Johnny had real athletic abilities.  

As part of their lawsuit against Netflix, the Wilsons argue that the streaming giant defamed them as it offered a perceived untruthful version of events.  

“Netflix willingly chose to group my highly qualified children and me into a scandal involving celebrities who, unlike me, pled guilty and acknowledged their roles in shameful actions like photoshopping images of fake athletes, cheating on tests and making bribe payments to coaches,” John explained in a statement. “In the interest of justice and accountability, Netflix must pay for the deliberate and devastating harm that they’ve done to my family.” 

The March 4 lawsuit further alleged that Netflix intertwined John’s actions with other parental misconduct amid Varsity Blues, and that deceptive editing made it seem as though John’s family was at the center of the scandal. The filing claimed that the misleading editing took place 26 times in the first 24 minutes of the documentary.  

Still, John’s lawyers maintain that they reached out to Netflix before the documentary dropped, cautioning them not to include his story. That did not stop the streamer from incorporating John’s Varsity Blues involvement, and a study group measured by his attorneys found that viewers came away from the documentary with the impression that the Wilsons cheated on the ACT test, faked Johnny’s athletic career and bribed USC administrators and coaches.  

“While justice has largely been restored in the court of law, exoneration is still needed in the court of public opinion, particularly as the Netflix film continues to falsely smear my family and shamefully misleads viewers to discredit the hard-earned accomplishments and talents of my innocent children,” John said in conjunction with the defamation suit. “We have suffered tremendous harm as Netflix chose sensationalism over accuracy, a deliberate choice which destroyed our reputations and grossly violated the ethics of documentary filmmaking as well as basic decency.” 

 It is unclear what monetary compensation the Wilsons are demanding from Netflix in damages. They have also called for the streamer to remove false statements about their family in the documentary and to apologize publicly.  

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