Adidas Prevails in RICO Suit Against Louisville Hoops Prospect Bowen

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Adidas Prevails in RICO Suit Against Louisville Hoops Prospect Bowen

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In a recent ruling that has divided opinions and has the potential to catch the U.S. Supreme Court’s attention, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit rejected former McDonald’s All-American and highly-rated recruit Brian Bowen II’s appeal in his racketeering lawsuit against sportswear giant Adidas.

Bowen’s legal battle stems from events that unfolded before his collegiate basketball career even began. Initially slated to play for Rick Pitino at the University of Louisville in 2017, Bowen’s journey took an unexpected turn due to the infamous college basketball corruption scandal that rocked the nation.

The scandal brought to light that individuals affiliated with Adidas had offered a significant sum of money—$100,000 in cash—to Bowen’s father, Brian Bowen Sr., to influence his son’s decision to play for Louisville, a school with an Adidas contract. It’s worth noting that Bowen was also considering Oregon, a Nike-sponsored school. However, following the scandal, Louisville severed ties with Bowen, leading him to transfer to South Carolina, only to face further ineligibility issues. Despite these setbacks, Bowen pursued the 2019 NBA Draft, where he was not selected.

Bowen alleges that Adidas and its associates are responsible for the loss of potential benefits connected to his NCAA eligibility, impacting his NBA development and the opportunity to play for a top-tier program against other NBA prospects. He pursued legal action under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). However, U.S. District Judge Joseph Anderson granted summary judgment for Adidas in May 2021, contending that Bowen did not establish a discernible injury to his business or property.

The recent Fourth Circuit decision, authored by Judge Allison Rushing, affirmed the earlier judgment, stating that the benefits Bowen lost were not promised in his scholarship agreement with Louisville. The agreement ensured Bowen received the maximum compensation allowable under NCAA rules, covering tuition, fees, room and board, and miscellaneous expenses. The court emphasized that promises of athletic training, elite coaching, preferred positions, or playing time were not explicitly stated in the scholarship agreement.

Judge Rushing also critiqued Bowen’s argument, noting that his claim that Adidas ruined his potential NBA career did not hold, as the benefits he lost were not guaranteed by the scholarship agreement. She emphasized that Bowen received everything promised in the agreement, and his expectation of a lucrative NBA career was deemed speculative and insufficient to support a RICO cause of action.

However, in a dissenting opinion, Judge Robert King argued that Bowen’s loss of NCAA eligibility should indeed be considered an injury under RICO. He highlighted Bowen’s victimization by the “Adidas schemers” and emphasized an expert report by retired NBA player Mike Bratz, stating that Bowen suffered a substantial career injury due to missed competitive time after school, crucial for player development. King contended that Bowen’s commitment to Louisville was a business decision, aligning with Justice Neil Gorsuch’s language in the NCAA v. Alston case that emphasized the business and property interests of college athletes.

In conclusion, Bowen has options to pursue further legal action. He can petition the Fourth Circuit for a rehearing en banc or potentially appeal to the Supreme Court, linking the business interests of playing college sports with legal claims. This case has the potential to impact the ongoing discourse around NCAA amateurism and the rights of college athletes in the United States.

Reference:

https://sports.yahoo.com/adidas-wins-rico-suit-louisville-095500562.html

https://www.sportico.com/law/analysis/2023/adidas-wins-in-college-basketball-prospects-rico-suit-1234742122/

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