According to reports from sports lawyer Darren Heitner and ESPN, the federal prosecutors looking into college basketball corruption have now turned their focus to Nike. The FBI’s New York field office and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York reportedly served a subpoena to Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League division, which is in charge of “grassroots basketball” at the high school level.
This move should not be particularly surprising. Adidas was the first major sports apparel company to get tied up in this mess, but the case was always about the general influence that big shoe companies have in in the recruiting game. One of the Adidas employees who was arrested earlier this week, Merl Code, used to run the EYBL, and three of the four schools who had coaches arrested are sponsored by Nike. Nike didn’t reply to ESPN’s request for comment, although they did release a statement earlier this week saying that corruption is bad:
Nike believes in fair and ethical play, both in business and sports, and strongly opposes any form of manipulation.
Now that the FBI has begun making arrests, anyone who flips could dramatically expand the scope of this case. It’s going to get bigger. One ominous example: Documents show now-arrested sports agent Christian Dawkins warning Adidas that they should be paying a player’s family more money because a rival company would be “coming in with a higher number.”