An Adidas executive was arrested on charges that he bribed high-school athletes to play at universities sponsored by the sportswear company.
The Department of Justice announced Tuesday that Jim Gatto, director of global sports marketing for basketball at Adidas, had been arrested along with nine college assistant coaches, managers, and financial advisers.
However, Adidas — which is referred to as “Company 1” throughout the complaint — isn’t the only sportswear brand that makes an appearance in the investigation.
In the complaint, sports agent Christian Dawkins reportedly tells other defendants that Adidas’ executives agreed to secure a specific amount of the company’s funding to convince a player to attend a certain Adidas-sponsored college. The college in question is likely the University of Louisville, which signed a $US160 million sponsorship deal with Adidas in August.
According to the complaint, Dawkins said that a “rival athletic apparel company” was “coming in with a higher number,” or bigger bribe.
Dawkins, who was allegedly negotiating directly with the player’s family, said he had to “get more” from Adidas to secure the high-school athlete’s commitment to the university. A coach at the college reportedly told Dawkins to “call Jim Gatto, who’s the head of everything” at Adidas’ basketball program, to get the required funding.
It’s possible that Dawkins was bluffing to secure the deal, but if this is true, then Adidas isn’t the only apparel brand with executives funelling funding to get players to commit to certain colleges. In a press conference on Tuesday, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the FBI said that the investigation was ongoing.
The multimillion-dollar battle for top-tier college basketball teams is hard fought among sportswear giants. The visibility of high-profile teams and players is a valuable marketing opportunity for apparel companies, even though NCAA players themselves cannot be paid to endorse brands.
The Baltimore Sun last year reported that Nike was the clear leader in the 2016 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, providing uniforms for 41 entrants. Adidas provided outfits for 14 teams, Under Armour outfitted 10 teams, and Russell Athletic outfitted three.
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