Merl Code, who was federally convicted and imprisoned for his actions while working as a consultant to Adidas, filed a lawsuit Monday against the shoe company claiming he acted on their approval. He is seeking the recovery of legal fees and other damages.
Code was originally arrested in 2017, when the FBI swept up 10 basketball coaches and recruiting middle men in an effort to clean up college basketball. He was convicted of bribery and fraud in successive trials in the Southern District of New York. He served 5 1/2 months in federal prison.
A former Clemson basketball star, Code had worked extensively for Nike and then as a consultant to Adidas in the world of grassroots basketball. That included aiding Adidas-affiliated college programs in recruiting.
Central to the federal case was Brian Bowen II, a top 30 recruit in the class of 2017 who signed with the Adidas-sponsored University of Louisville, but allegedly only after a deal was arranged to provide money to Bowen’s father. Those payments, the lawsuit alleges, were Adidas money laundered through a South Carolina travel basketball team Code was affiliated with.
Code said in the lawsuit all of his actions were cleared by his boss, James Gatto (who was also convicted and imprisoned), and other executives at Adidas. From the lawsuit:
“[Code] communicated with James Gatto relative to the request to financially compensate Bowen’s father in order to have Bowen agree to enroll and play basketball for the University of Louisville. James Gatto communicated with basketball staff at the University of Louisville who wanted Bowen to enroll and play for their University.
“[Adidas] approved the payments to Bowen’s father.
“[Adidas] facilitated the payments by having money wired into an Adidas travel high school basketball team located in Greenville, South Carolina and then the money was withdrawn and paid to Bowen’s father.”
Adidas was not immediately available to respond to the lawsuit.
Code is seeking some $500,000 in legal expenses spent fighting the charges that he says only happened because he did what Adidas wanted and approved. The company did pay the bills of Gatto, a full-time employee, as well as other executives caught up in the case.
Code, who has not worked in the nearly six years since his original arrest, is also seeking damages caused by the arrest, including his incarceration preventing him from earning a living for his family.