T.A. Cunningham seeks injunction to play at Los Alamitos

Los Alamitos High defensive lineman T.A. Cunningham, one of the top football prospects in the country, filed a petition Tuesday requesting that the Superior Court of California block a California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section decision to deny him a hardship waiver. The request wasn’t processed by the court until Thursday afternoon and now includes a temporary restraining order that would block the CIF decision and allow Cunningham to play Thursday night.

The CIF denial prevents Cunningham, a 6-foot-6, 265-pound junior, from playing for Los Alamitos this season after he transferred from Georgia.

The CIF stated it denied Cunningham the hardship because he did not “meet the definition of a ‘homeless student’” as suggested in his hardship waiver request.

“Every week, I’m 100% sure he’s going to get cleared,” Los Alamitos coach Ray Fenton said Sept. 8. “And he still sits.”

Cunningham’s attorney is Michael Caspino, who is known for representing prospective college athletes with name, image and likeness endorsement deals.

Caspino told The Times CIF has dropped its argument the transfer was not valid and is now opening an investigation to determine whether “undue influence” was used to steer Cunningham to Los Alamitos.

CIF executive director Ron Nocetti told The Times, “We don’t comment on legal matters.”

The injunction request states Cunningham moved to Orange County in June without his mother and father and has since been sleeping on teammates’ couches. Georgia does not allow high school NIL agreements, but California does under limited circumstances. Caspino argues that Cunningham moved to California to obtain NIL revenue to support his family, but he didn’t receive the revenue promised after a fallout with marketing agency Levels Sports Group.

The request states his NIL revenue opportunities fell apart after co-founder Chris Flores, a well-known youth coach in Orange County, was charged with molesting a 15-year-old girl. The court filing includes screenshots of text messages it states were exchanged by Cunningham’s father, Flores and Levels co-founder Justin Giangrande promising Cunningham’s family housing in California.
The court filing also states Cunningham is planning to request a restraining order that would allow him to play the rest of the season, beginning with Los Alamitos’ Sept. 15 contest against Santa Margarita.

Cunningham was ranked as the No. 14 overall prospect in the country by Rivals and has 59 scholarship offers, including ones from USC and UCLA. Los Alamitos quarterback Malachi Nelson and receiver Makai Lemon are USC commits.

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