COLUMBIA, S.C. — A federal judge in South Carolina has dismissed with prejudice former University of Louisville signee Brian Bowen II's lawsuit against Adidas and other people he claimed upended his life by paying his father to ensure he signed with UofL.
Bowen sued Adidas America, former Adidas executives James Gatto and Christopher Rivers, former Adidas consultants Merl Code and Thomas Gassnola, business manager Christian Dawkins and financial manager Munish Sood in 2018, alleging they violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) by committing bribery, fraud and money laundering.
Gatto, Code and Dawkins have been convicted of engaging in a scheme where they paid tens of thousands of dollars to the families of high school basketball players to sign with Adidas-sponsored schools, including Louisville, and covered up payments so recruits could certify that they had complied with NCAA rules.
Bowen was named in the pay-for-play scheme. His father admitted to accepting $100,000 to have Bowen sign at UofL, but said his son knew nothing about the payments. Louisville officials ruled Bowen ineligible for the 2017-18, and the NCAA ruled him ineligible for the 2018-19 season. He never played a college game.
U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Anderson said the discourse around the exploitation of Bowen and other student-athletes is "a small spoke in a much larger wheel of broader recruitment scandals" facing college basketball.
"...the Court does not doubt that Bowen Jr.’s life was upended by the revelation of payments to his father and the University of Louisville's decision to withhold him from NCAA competition," the ruling said. "Nor does the Court ignore the prosecution of certain individuals involved in making those payments to Bowen Jr.’s father. But while Plaintiff devotes most of his arguments to these undisputed facts, they are not relevant to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act’s ('RICO') statutory standing requirements."
Anderson said UofL did not withdraw Bowen's scholarship while withholding his from the team, and while he was personally impacted by his ineligibility, his losses are not compensable under the RICO statute. Additionally, the ruling said Bowen's promising future was never guaranteed and does not fall under RICO.
"Bowen Jr. had a mere expectation of (and not an entitlement to) a lucrative professional career, and that expectation — no matter its likelihood — is not a cognizable business or property interest under RICO."
Bowen signed a contract to play in the Australian National Basketball League in 2018 and entered the 2019 NBA Draft. He signed a two-way contract with the Indiana Pacers, but was waived on April 23.