Former Five-Star Recruit Requests SCOTUS Review in Adidas Case

Last Updated on February 24, 2024

This past week, former McDonald’s All-American and highly-rated recruit Brian Bowen II filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court. The case, Bowen v. Adidas, alleges racketeering against Adidas and raises crucial questions about the rights of college athletes to prepare for professional sports careers. 

Bowen’s petition seeks to expand the scope of NCAA v. Alston, which focused on educational expenses, to include the ability of athletes to position themselves for opportunities in professional drafts. If the Supreme Court decides to hear the case , it could have far-reaching implications for college athletics by giving the justices an opportunity to delineate the proper legal standards for the treatment of college athletes.

Bowen Asserts Protected “Business or Property Interest” 

The controversy began in 2017 when Bowen committed to the University of Louisville. His plans to attend the university were derailed when his father accepted a bribe related to his decision to play for Louisville, leading to his loss of NCAA  eligibility. 

In response, Bowen pursued legal action, filing claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act against those involved in the bribery scheme. 

Both the district court and the Fourth Circuit ruled against him. They held that Bowen failed to demonstrate an injury to his “business or property,” a requirement for a successful civil RICO claim. Specifically, the courts dismissed the claims regarding the loss of NCAA eligibility, the loss of benefits from his scholarship agreement, and the expenses incurred in legal efforts to regain eligibility, deeming them insufficient to establish a cognizable business or property injury under the statute.

As a last resort, Bowen now hopes the Supreme Court will grant cert and find that college athletes are guaranteed a protected interest in their advancement as professional prospects. 

Potential Implications for NCAA

Although not directly involved, the NCAA has a vested interest in the outcome of Bowen’s case.

The petition asserts that the concept of “business or property” under antitrust  law aligns closely with its definition in RICO. Bowen maintains that, viewed through this lens, the rationale behind the Alston case—a decision based on an interpretation of antitrust law—should also be relevant to his circumstances.

In a concurring opinion in Alston, Justice Kavanaugh stated, “The NCAA couches its arguments for not paying student athletes in innocuous labels. But the labels cannot disguise the reality: The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America.”

In the same vein, Bowen depicts his recruitment experience with Louisville as a business deal: He expected to receive top-notch coaching, immediate playing opportunities in televised games against other top prospects, and access to professional-grade training. In exchange, Bowen would contribute his high-level talent, skills, and hard work, thereby enabling Louisville to generate higher revenues.

The Supreme Court only grants cert to approximately one to two percent of all petitions, so a decision in favor of Bowen still faces significant odds. 

Author

  • Nick Messineo

    Nick graduated from West Virginia University in 2020 and Michigan State University College of Law in 2023. Since graduating, Nick has written extensively on NIL and the rapidly evolving college athletics industry.

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