Rick Pitino sues Adidas for 'outrageous' conduct in basketball scandal
The lawsuit claims the ex-Louisville basketball coach was not involved in “giving improper benefits to recruits or players.” It says Adidas knew that Pitino’s reputation hinged on him running a “clean, proper and strictly compliant” program.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Former University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against apparel maker Adidas, claiming he was damaged by the company’s “outrageous conduct in conspiring to funnel money to the family of a college basketball recruit.”
In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Louisville by Pitino attorneys Steve Pence and Mike Valenti, the ex-coach alleges Adidas’ actions were done without his “knowledge, participation, or acquiescence.”
The lawsuit claims Pitino was not involved in “giving improper benefits to recruits or players.” It says Adidas knew that Pitino’s reputation hinged on him running a “clean, proper and strictly compliant” program.
And the lawsuit alleges that Pitino has been "vilified, ridiculed, and criticized in the local and national media, on social media, and in public and private communications." In addition, it has been "difficult and painful" for Pitino and his his family to appear in public, "especially in Louisville, where they live."
In a statement, Adidas said “Mr. Pitino's lawsuit is clearly a reaction to his termination yesterday and is without merit."
Federal investigators have linked Pitino’s program to a scheme to pay recruits. A criminal complaint unsealed on September 26 claims that at least one U of L coach took part in a plan to send money from apparel company Adidas to prospective players.
In particular, the FBI has accused Adidas' director of global sports marketing, Jim Gatto, of participating in the scheme and was criminally charged in a federal complaint unsealed September 26 in New York.
Pitino's lawsuit claims that scheme "would not have happened but for the wrongful actions of Adidas and its employees."
The lawsuit alleges that Pitino and Gatto talked regularly, but "at no time have Coach Pitino and Gatto discussed -- overtly, covertly, in code, through nuance, or in any other way -- the provision of improper benefits to any University of Louisville basketball player or recruit."
Pitino, whom U of L’s athletic board fired Monday, is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial. But in the complaint, he says he is after more than just money.
“It is Coach Pitino’s vehicle for proving that he had nothing to do with Adidas’ outrageous, wrongful, and illegal conspiracy," according to the complaint.
It says that Pitino believes he is the person identified in an FBI affidavit as "Coach-2," a U of L coach who holds sway with Adidas and is accused of helping secure money for a recruit. However, Pitino has specifically denied arranging any money for prospective players.
The federal lawsuit filed Tuesday does not preclude other possible legal action against U of L over Pitino's ouster. In firing Pitino for "cause," the university maintains that it owes the coach none of the more than $40 million in compensation remaining on his contract.
Interim U of L President Greg Postel acknowledged Monday that Pitino could file a lawsuit challenging his firing, but he also wouldn't rule out a negotiated settlement with the former coach.
Adidas terminated its personal services contract with Pitino on Monday. That agreement provided Pitino $1.5 million in 2015-2016.
Read the full lawsuit below:
This story will be updated.
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