University of Kansas

Skechers sues Adidas, references FBI college basketball probe, two KU players

Skechers shoes on display at an outlet store
Skechers shoes on display at an outlet store File photo

Shoe company Skechers is suing Adidas, claiming it "engaged in a deliberate, deceptive, and illegal campaign" to artificially boost its image while steering amateur college basketball players to Adidas products.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday night in Los Angeles, comes shortly after an FBI indictment released last month charged former Adidas executive Jim Gatto with giving illegal payments to the parents and guardians of college athletes, which included family members of two Kansas players believed to be Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa. Both Preston and De Sousa are mentioned by name in Skechers' lawsuit.

"As was the case with (NC State's Dennis) Smith, Adidas has vigorously promoted its relationship with Preston," Skechers' attorneys wrote in the suit. "To associate itself and its products with Preston, Adidas posted and still makes available to the public on its website at least eight promotional photos of Preston wearing Adidas-branded products."

After reiterating the FBI's findings on the person believed to be De Sousa — including details of his guardian allegedly accepting a $20,000 payment — Skechers' attorneys wrote: "Skechers is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that between January 13, 2018 and March 31, 2018, De Sousa played basketball for the University of Kansas in 20 games, consistently wearing footwear and clothing with prominent Adidas logos both on and off the court. On information and belief, most, if not all, of the games in which De Sousa played while wearing Adidas-branded gear were televised locally, regionally, and/or nationally."

Skechers, which is calling for a jury trial, is asking in part for an unspecified amount of money in damages.

An Adidas spokesperson responded to the suit with this statement: "The Skechers complaint is frivolous and nonsensical and should be summarily dismissed."