Judge Rules Adidas RICO Suit Will Continue

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On March 2, 2020, U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Anderson Jr. declined to dismiss a civil racketeering lawsuit against Adidas and others, allowing the lawsuit to continue. The suit was brought by Brian Bowen II, a former University of Louisville basketball recruit, who claims that the NCAA corruption scandal cost him opportunities in both college and professional basketball.

Specifically, Judge Anderson determined that Bowen would be permitted to continue claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a federal law that provides a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Bowen submits that Adidas, its executives, and its former employees committed wire fraud in furtherance of an illegal scheme to bribe the families of prospective student-athletes into unduly influencing the athletes to attend Adidas-sponsored schools.

As we have previously reported, Bowen’s father, Brian Bowen Sr., took the stand in October 2018 to testify in the federal criminal trial regarding this college basketball corruption scheme. According to federal prosecutors, Adidas officials and others conspired to pay Bowen’s family $100,000 in exchange for his commitment to Louisville. According to the testimony of one financial adviser, he met with Bowen Sr. in July 2017 and gave him $19,400 on behalf of Adidas. The adviser stated a second payment of $25,000 was planned but never delivered, given numerous arrests related to the case. Bowen Sr. stated that he never told his son or anyone at Louisville that he was taking money from Adidas.

Bowen Sr. testified that he received a $1,300 cash payment from a Louisville ex-assistant coach, Kenny Johnson, in order to secure his son’s commitment to the school. During his testimony, the prosecutors questioned Bowen Sr. about his text messages with Johnson in which they set up a meeting to exchange the payment. Bowen Sr. said he received payments from coaches at other schools as well.

The criminal trial resulted in the conviction of Adidas marketing executive James Gatto and consultant Merl Code. Both are appealing their convictions. The scheme was discovered before Bowen had the opportunity to play basketball for Louisville. Upon discovery of such corruption, the NCAA found Bowen ineligible to play due to violations of the NCAA rules.

Bowen now claims that the corruption of Adidas and others cost him his basketball career. As of July 2019, Bowen signed a contract with the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, agreeing to play oversees for a year in Australia and then moving up and down form the lower-level G League.

In response to the civil lawsuit, Adidas released a statement, noting, “As we stated previously, Adidas is committed to ethical and fair business practices, and we look forward to continuing to work with the NCAA and other stakeholders to improve the environment around college basketball.”