Nike Seeks to Clear Name in FIFA Bribery Scandal

1996 Apparel Sponsorship Is Coming Under Scrutiny

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Nike is pushing back against media reports that have linked the company to the unfolding FIFA scandal.

The marketer was not named in the the 47-count federal indictment the U.S. government issued Wednesday that alleges a vast corruption scheme, including kickbacks and bribes related to marketing rights deals. But Nike has been under a cloud of suspicion as potentially being the unamed sportswear company allegedly involved in a bribery scheme related to a sponsorship deal for the Brazilian national soccer federation.

In a statement issued late Thursday, Nike said: "The charging documents unsealed [Wednesday] in Brooklyn do not allege that Nike engaged in criminal conduct. There is no allegation in the charging documents that any Nike employee was aware of or knowingly participated in any bribery or kickback scheme."

As multiple media outlets have pointed out, the deal in question resembles a deal Nike struck with the Brazilian national team in 1996.

The indictment references a "44-page sponsorship and endorsement agreement" that required "Sportswear Company A to pay CBF [the Brazilian national team] $160 million over 10 years for the right to be one of CBF's co-sponsors and to be CBF's exclusive footwear, apparel, accessories and equipment supplier."

But the money in question includes additional payments made by the sportswear company to a Brazilian sports marketing company called Traffic, according to the allegations. The owner of the Traffic Group, Jose Hawilla, has pled guilty to racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice.

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