The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Nike, implicated in FIFA corruption scandal, says it is cooperating with investigation

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch walks by display panels illustrating the structure of the FIFA corruption scandal. (Shannon Stapleton / Reuters)

The biggest name in the FIFA corruption scandal just happens to belong to a certain global company based in Oregon.

Nike wasn’t mentioned by name, but Attorney General Loretta Lynch and indictments released by the Justice Department show that some of the offenses include “agreements regarding sponsorship of the Brazilian national soccer team by a major U.S. sportswear company.”

Connecting the dots, Nike and Brazil agreed to a 10-year, $160-million deal to sponsor the national team back in 1996. (It was renegotiated in 2008 and lasts through 2018.) And last year, Huffington Post notes:

…Jose Hawilla, the owner and founder of the Florida- and Brazil-based sports marketing firm the Traffic Group, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for, among other things, accepting and passing along bribes and kickbacks in connection with that deal. Hawilla paid these bribes and kickbacks to a senior official in the Brazilian Football federation (CBF), who signed the deal along with Hawilla and four Nike executives.
Lynch’s comments followed the Justice Department’s announcement that 14 people, including nine FIFA officials, had been arrested and indicted on Wednesday on numerous charges that include “racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies.”
The Justice Department’s indictment notes that Hawilla and the unnamed Brazilian official also engaged in other corrupt deals in the years following the Nike contract. While it does not accuse Nike of any wrongdoing or of any knowledge of Hawilla’s corrupt practices, it is unclear to what extent Nike vetted Hawilla before allowing him to act as their middleman with the Brazilian soccer federation.

“Like fans everywhere we care passionately about the game and are concerned by the very serious allegations,” Nike said in a statement to the Huffington Post. “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.”