LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The son of rap impresario Sean “Diddy” Combs is embroiled in a firestorm for accepting a football scholarship from UCLA that critics say should go to a more needy student, but the 18-year-old cornerback says he earned the award.
Justin Dior Combs, whose father topped a Forbes list of hip hop’s wealthiest this year with a net worth estimated at $550 million, comes to the California school from the private, Catholic Iona Preparatory School in New Rochelle, New York.
The younger Combs’ scholarship to attend the University of California, Los Angeles, and play on the football team will provide $54,000 a year toward his education, with that money coming from what the athletic program generates, not from taxpayers, the school said.
That has not stopped some critics from questioning whether the money might not be better spent.
The younger Combs, in response to a CNN story about his scholarship, took to Twitter on Tuesday to say that he earned the scholarship. “Regardless what the circumstances are, I put that work in!!!! PERIOD,” he wrote.
“Regardless of what you do in life every1 is gonna have their own opinion,” Combs, who played in nationwide high school all-star game in Arizona in January, said in a follow-up post.
UCLA said in a statement that unlike need-based scholarships for academics, the school’s sports scholarships are awarded strictly on the basis of athletic ability.
“Athletic scholarships, such as those awarded to football or basketball players, do not rely on state funds,” UCLA said. “Instead, these scholarships are entirely funded through UCLA Athletics ticket sales, corporate partnerships, media contracts and private donations from supporters.”
UCLA hands out about 285 full athletic scholarships each year.
At the NBC News opinion website TheGrio.com, blogger Jay Anderson asked whether paying for his son’s education should be the obligation of the elder Combs.
“By taking a scholarship that he earned, but could likely afford on his own, (Justin) Combs is taking a spot away from a player who might elect to go elsewhere ... which in theory would hurt the team as a whole,” Anderson wrote.
In 2010, Combs gave Justin a Maybach car worth about $360,000, according to media reports. The rap star defended the purchase in an interview on ABC program “Nightline” saying, “I think it’s appropriate to give my kids whatever I want to give my kids.”
Sean Combs’ business ventures include high returns from his investment in Ciroc vodka as well as clothing lines Sean John and Enyce, his record label Bad Boy, the marketing company Blue Flame and numerous tech start-ups. As a rapper, his top recordings include “I’ll Be Missing You” and “Coming Home.”
Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Bill Trott