Adidas allegedly made payments to basketball star Zion Williamson’s family before he joined Duke, court documents said.
Late last week, new filings in the U.S. District Court for South Carolina from a civil lawsuit between former college basketball player Brian Bowen and the sportswear giant showed a series of “potential transfers from [Adidas executive] Chris Rivers that may have been to Lee Anderson,” who is Williamson’s stepfather, prior to his seasons with the Duke Blue Devils.
The Raleigh News & Observer first reported the news.
According to the documents, attorneys for Bowen — a five-star recruit who lost his NCAA eligibility amid the Division I men’s basketball corruption scandal — had requested interrogatories put forth to Adidas’ lawyers about Williamson’s dealings.
A letter penned by Adidas legal representative William Taft, addressing Bowen attorney Colin Ram, read that the Three Stripes has “not interviewed or deposed” Rivers or Williamson “but is aware of the following documents suggestion that certain fund transfers to Mr. Williamson or his family may have occurred.”
Included in the letter was a list of nine payments, with the first being $404 on Nov. 14, 2016 and the last being $800 on Sept. 12, 2017. The biggest sum, amounting to $1,107, was paid on Feb. 14, 2017. Altogether, the nine payments totaled $5,474.
Other potential transfers that may have occurred, according to the letter, was a $3,000 per month transfer from Rivers to the Williamson family for an unspecified period of time, as well as a separate $1,000 transfer from Rivers to the Williamson family.
“Adidas does not know the specific purpose of these transfers,” wrote Taft. He also directed Bowen to the documents submitted by Adidas to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which oversaw the cases related to the intercollegiate basketball corruption.
Through the interrogatories, Bowen’s attorneys also sought details of payments by Adidas to recruits such as former North Carolina State University’s Dennis Smith Jr. as well as University of Kansas’ Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa.
Adidas declined to provide additional comment.
The legal battle dates back to last year, when Williamson became engaged in a court imbroglio with former marketing representative Gina Ford, who alleged that the then-rising NBA star broke a five-year contract with her company, Prime Sports Marketing, in order to sign with mega talent and sports agency CAA. She also accused Williamson of receiving under-the-table gifts and money from Adidas well as rival athletic apparel and footwear behemoth Nike.
Similar allegations were made back in 2019, when embattled celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti claimed that the Swoosh had approved a payout of $35,000 to Williamson when he was still in high school. Avenatti was subsequently found guilty of attempting to extort more than $20 million from Nike.
Williamson signed with NIke in 2019.