Now Nike May Be Embroiled in FIFA Scandal

Sportswear giant says it is cooperating with investigators
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 28, 2015 11:32 AM CDT
In this photo taken Sept. 20, 2011, the Nike logo is displayed at a Nike store in South Miami.   (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

(Newser) – In the US' indictment of FIFA officials is an allegation that an unnamed sportswear company bribed a Brazilian soccer official to get a sponsorship agreement with the Brazilian federation. Bloomberg thinks that company is Nike—the deal outlined in the documents, it notes, "mirrors" the decade-long deal Nike made with Brazil in 1996, a move that "put Nike on the global soccer map." The sportswear giant responded that it "strongly opposes any form of manipulation or bribery" and that it "[has] been cooperating, and will continue to cooperate" in the FIFA investigation. Nike did not, however, specifically comment on the bribery allegation. Since getting the Brazilian sponsorship, Nike's total sales from soccer have skyrocketed from $40 million (in 1994) to $2.27 billion last year.

The company referred to in the indictment agreed to pay $160 million over the following decade for the exclusive selling rights to Brazilian national team gear (and the right to outfit the team in its gear, CNNMoney notes), and in a separate agreement, allegedly also paid $40 million—via Swiss bank account—to "an official at a firm that buys and sells marketing rights in Brazil," Bloomberg reports. A "high-ranking" FIFA and Brazilian soccer official received some of that $40 million. CNNMoney says the aforementioned "official" and "firm" are Jose Hawila and his Traffic Group; Hawila has pleaded guilty to bribing FIFA officials in order to make deals between FIFA and would-be sponsors. Though Bloomberg and outlets including the Washington Post frame the $40 million as a bribe, CNNMoney notes that the indictment does not specifically frame that payment, or an additional $30 million in fees the unnamed company paid Traffic Group between 1996 and 1999, as illegal. The documents do, however, say Hawila and his company used that money to bribe FIFA officials. (Click for a meaty FIFA corruption guide.)

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