Adidas has filed cross-claims against former five-star recruit Brian Bowen II’s father, one of its former grassroots consultants and a financial advisor, alleging they conspired with some of its employees to misappropriate the apparel company’s money to pay players’ families to steer them toward Adidas-sponsored schools.
The cross-claims against Brian Bowen Sr., former Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola and financial planner Munish Sood were made in the sneaker company’s answer to an amended complaint by Brian Bowen II, who alleges Adidas and others derailed his career by causing the NCAA to rule him ineligible.
Adidas accused the cross-defendants of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act by committing wire fraud, conspiracy and fraud, and the shoe company is asking for damages, forfeiture, attorney’s fees and court costs.
“Throughout Brian Bowen Jr.’s high school career, his father, Brian Bowen Sr., solicited and accepted money in return for promising that his son would play basketball for specific schools and programs,” Adidas attorneys wrote in a filing in U.S. District Court in South Carolina last month. “In each instance that Bowen Sr. took money for his son’s services, Bowen Jr. in fact played or committed to play for a particular team.
“Some of the funds Bowen Sr. received were misappropriated from adidas America, Inc. (“adidas”) as part of a larger scheme. In this scheme, former adidas employees and other individuals misappropriated funds to pay families of high school athletes, like Bowen Jr., in exchange for those athletes committing to play for certain schools and programs. The participants in this scheme did not act on behalf of adidas or for its interests. To the contrary, the participants worked together to submit, and cause to be submitted, fraudulent invoices to obtain funds from adidas.”
In September 2017, Louisville officials ruled Bowen, from Saginaw, Michigan, ineligible after an FBI investigation uncovered that an Adidas employee and others conspired to pay his father $100,000 for him to sign with the Cardinals. After Bowen transferred to South Carolina, the NCAA ruled him ineligible for the 2018-19 season.
Bowen, 21, never played a game in college and wasn’t selected in the 2019 NBA draft. He signed a two-way contract with the Pacers in July 2019. He played in five games for the Pacers this season.
In November 2018, Bowen sued Adidas, Gassnola, Sood, Adidas employees Chris Rivers and James Gatto, former Adidas consultant Merl Code and former NBA runner Christian Dawkins, alleging they violated the RICO Act by engaging in bribery, fraud and money laundering at the expense of his eligibility and athletic development.
U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Anderson Jr. in March rejected Adidas’ argument that it was a “victim” of the alleged scheme because some of the fraudulent invoices, which allegedly covered up the illicit payments to Bowen’s father, were approved by some of the company’s top executives.
Bowen II’s attorneys have alleged that Adidas America then-general manager Zion Armstrong, head of sports marketing Chris McGuire and director of finance Gerald Adams approved invoices. Armstrong was named president of Adidas North America in April 2018.
“Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, this Court finds that the Plaintiff has adequately pleaded that Adidas had knowledge of the true purpose of the invoices,” Anderson wrote in his March ruling. “This Court declines to accept, especially at this stage in the proceedings, Defendant Adidas’ contention that it did not or could not know the true purpose of these funds because the invoices were not labeled as a ‘bribe.’”
Adidas’ attorneys fired back in their latest filing, alleging Bowen Sr. was the one who derailed his son’s career.
“Bowen Sr. played a central role in this scheme, culminating in striking a $100,000 deal for his son to play basketball at the University of Louisville (“UofL”),” Adidas attorneys wrote. “Bowen Sr. negotiated the price for Bowen Jr.’s commitment to UofL, arranged for a campus visit, agreed to mischaracterize himself as an Amateur Athletics Union ‘consultant’ (even though he never had provided any such services), accepted a cash payment in a New Jersey office parking lot, and ultimately caused Bowen Jr. to commit to play at UofL.
“All along, Bowen Sr. knew the funds to be paid to him would be misappropriated from adidas. Bowen Sr. and his co-conspirators are liable to adidas for the injury to the company resulting from their fraudulent scheme, including the misuse of adidas’s money to steer Bowen Jr. to UofL. Likewise, Plaintiff Bowen Jr.’s attempt to use the scheme perpetrated by his father and others as a basis for RICO claims against adidas must fail.”