Evidence appears to show Nike executives talking about making payments to Zion Williamson while he was still in high school.
Nike Could Be in A Lot of Trouble
Shoe giant Nike is in hot water as evidence has emerged that seems to prove that they are willing to pay high school athletes to represent their brand. In the case of Zion Williamson, they wanted him and Romeo Langford to play in the EYBL.
For those unfamiliar with high school basketball, the EYBL (Elite Youth Basketball League) is run by Nike and they compete on the AAU circuit with Adidas and Under Armour for the top players and teams to play in their league. Of course they do this with the hopes of getting an inside track on signing the best players before they go pro. They also try to sway kids who do get division one scholarships to choose one of “their” schools. For example, Zion Williamson chose to go to Duke which is sponsored by Nike.
What Exactly did Nike Do Wrong?
Essentially this situation involves lawyer Eric Avenatti who was charged with trying to extort Nike. He was threatening to uncover the fact that they illegally pay high school players to represent their brand. The messages that he had proving these claims were entered into evidence as part of his defense on his federal extortion charges.
The copies of the text messages show correspondence between Carlton Debose, John Stovall and Jamal James of Nike. It’s important to note that these messages don’t specifically say that either Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford received payments. These messages also don’t prove that they had any knowledge that this was going on.
The Text Messages Are Very Clear as to Nike’s Intentions
To understand the significance of the messages, we need to know who the people involved are. Carlton Debose is the director of the EYBL. Jamal James is the manager of the EYBL and John Stovall is recruiting coordinator for Nike. The evidence was taken from a group text.
“Just remember that the Romeo and Zion deals are NOT done yet…Just want you to remember that possible financial obligation also”-John Stovall
“Forgot about that…I just told them we could do the 30K, too”-Jamal James in response to John Stovall
“We’re still in there for Zion and Langford?!?!?! I thought that ship had sailed.”-Carlton Debose
What happens in a court of law is yet to be determined but these messages are very clear. The person in charge of Nike’s youth basketball league did not blink when two of his fellow Nike employees mentioned paying to acquire the services of two five star recruits.
The NCAA’s Role in This Scandal
Although they aren’t directly involved in this case, this is another black eye for the NCAA. They already made themselves look rather silly with the “Rich Paul Rule” and overall are way out of touch. The fight to keep their athlete’s amateur status while everyone else involved with the sport continues to get rich gets more ridiculous with every passing year.
They are directly responsible for this kind of thing happening and they know it. They will most likely try bury their heads in the sand as usual but this is something that won’t go away. At some point they will have to smarten up and compensate athletes the same way as everyone else in this multi billion-dollar business of college basketball keeps getting more and more wealthy.