Former Louisville recruit Brian Bowen sues Adidas and wants it to stop sponsoring college basketball

Brian Spurlock / USA TODAY Sports

Former Louisville and South Carolina basketball player Brian Bowen II is suing Adidas. 

He's also bringing litigation against many of the corporation's employees and consultants, including those who have already been found guilty in federal court.

Bowen, a former five-star recruit in the class of 2017 who never played a game in college due to his connection to the FBI's investigation into nefarious recruiting practices in the sport, signed with an Australian professional team in August. That decision came after Bowen's NCAA eligibility was put in strict doubt following his father's admitted scheme to seek and accept money in exchange for the services of his son to play basketball. Brian Bowen Sr. and Adidas associates, it was revealed in federal court, had discussed a $100,000 payment plan for Bowen II to play at Louisville.

Bowen II eventually entered his name into the 2018 NBA Draft pool but was not considered a viable prospect. His father said under oath that he never told his son about the money.

The McLeod Law Group, out of Charleston, South Carolina, filed a federal racketeering lawsuit Monday morning on behalf of Bowen II against Adidas America, Inc. and these six men: James Gatto, Merl Code, Christian Dawkins, Munish Sood, Thomas Gassnola and Christopher Rivers. 

The lawsuit alleges Adidas and those men violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. It is also attempting to establish corruption to the level that it ends Adidas' hundred-million-dollar sponsorship agreements with Division I men's basketball teams. Specifically, under the "relief requested" portion of the lawsuit, it reads: "Enjoining Defendant Adidas and its employees, officers, directors, agents, successors, assignees, merged or acquired predecessors, parent or controlling entities, subsidiaries, and all other persons acting in concert or participation with it from engaging in sponsorship of NCAA Division I men's basketball programs."

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Charleston, South Carolina.

"Adidas has thus far infiltrated college basketball with complete impunity," attorney Mullins McLeod said. "It is now time for them to answer for what they have done and to suffer the consequences of their corporate misconduct. Brian is an exceptional young man who is determined to right this wrong and to do his part to help free other student athletes from corporate corruption that has no place in college basketball."

Gatto, Dawkins and Code were found guilty by a federal jury on Oct. 24 for their involvement in conspiracy to commit wire fraud. A federal jury decided that those three men conspired to defraud universities by way of influencing commitments of players to schools that, the prosecution argued, would have otherwise never pursued if they knew of the eligibility violations attached to said players.  

Bowen Sr. was a key witness for the prosecution in the trial. He is not named in the McLeod's suit. Five of the six men being sued have been attached to the case in a high-profile way, though. Gatto, Dawkins and Code were defendants in October's widely publicized court case. Sood originally was charged by the government but eventually flipped and became a cooperating witness in said case. The same went for Gassnola, who proved to be the most revealing and critical witness for the government in its case against Gatto, Dawkins and Code. 

Rivers, who was not charged by the Department of Justice and not a witness in the first of three scheduled trials in the case, is the new name in the fold. Under sworn testimony in October, Gassnola described Rivers as one of the leaders of Adidas' grassroots basketball operation. 

"Adidas spearheaded this criminal racketeering enterprise to coerce the families of top high school basketball players to attend colleges and universities under contract with Adidas to boost the corporate brand and increase profits in the ultra-competitive $25 billion athletic shoe market," McLeod said in a statement. "Once student athletes, such as Brian, commit to an Adidas sponsored university, they are duty bound to wear Adidas gear and allow Adidas to market their image and likeness for corporate profit."

It was Bowen II's ineligibility at Louisville that drove much of the story in its early stages of 2017. Hall of Famer Rick Pitino was fired, as was Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich. Bowen was immediately sat and eventually transferred to South Carolina in the hopes his case would give him a shot to eventually play in college. But that never came.

"Unbeknownst to Brian, he had been targeted by Adidas and its associates as a must-get for Adidas' flagship university," the suit alleges. 

The lawsuit can be read here.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning senior writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his ninth season reporting on college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics... Full Bio

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