The FIFA corruption scandal has quickly become the talk of the sports world, but now we're learning that it also involves one of the biggest sneaker companies in the U.S.
According to the Department of Justice, a major U.S. sportswear brand was involved in receiving bribes and kickbacks associated with its sponsorship of the Brazilian Football Confederation, or CBF. Citing the DOJ's release, Forbes is speculating that the unnamed brand in the middle of the controversy is Nike. The allegations are as follows:
"Other alleged schemes relate to the payment and receipt of bribes and kickbacks in connection with the sponsorship of CBF by a major U.S. sportswear company, the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 FIFA presidential election."
More specifically, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch traced the connection back to Nike's 1996 10-year, $160 million deal with the Brazil national team. One of the men who helped Nike sign the deal, Jose Hawilla, pled guilty last year to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in receiving and initiating bribes and kickbacks connected to the agreement between Nike and the CBF.
Although the current indictments do not explicitly accuse Nike of any crime, it remains to be seen if the brand will be implicated in court. It's also worth noting that the only other brand in the world of soccer that can stand toe to toe with Nike is adidas, and it's based in Germany.
In light of these new allegations, Nike has released the following statement to Forbes:
"Like fans everywhere we care passionately about the game and are concerned by the very serious allegations. Nike believes in ethical and fair play in both business and sport and strongly opposes any form of manipulation or bribery. We have been cooperating, and will continue to cooperate, with the authorities."
We'll be sure to update this post with any new developments.