Updated: Mar 6
By Merl Code, who served as a director at Nike and consultant for Adidas. He is a former professional basketball player and played Division I basketball for Clemson University. Black Market is his first book - which you can buy here.
The following is excerpted from Black Market @ 2022 by Merl Code, used with permission by Hanover Square Press.
I'd like to dedicate this book to all those who refuse to stay silent so that others can remain comfortable. The truth makes people uneasy because it complicates the lie they live.
September 26, 2017. After I was arrested and arraigned, I got back home and sat down with my father to watch the FBI press conference, which was the biggest story, not just in sports but in the entire sphere of news at the time.
Federal authorities charged me, adidas Global Director of Sports Marketing Jim Gatto and eight other people, four of them assistant coaches—Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans, Auburn’s Chuck Person, Arizona’s Emanuel “Book” Richardson and USC’s Tony Bland—with fraud and corruption. They alleged that we took part in a scheme in which the coaches accepted bribes to funnel recruits to specific college programs, and then later to certain shoe companies, agents and marketing reps. Anyone on the inside, after reading the legal documents, knew that the case centered around high school recruit Brian Bowen and the $100,000 payment his family had been promised by adidas if he signed with the company’s flagship program, the University of Louisville.
During the press conference at the US Attorney’s Office, they had all of these fancy flowcharts in the background, revealing that it had utilized wiretaps, undercover agents, informants and other resources to blow the lid off a story about the greed and impurities of college sports, that the innocent colleges were being infiltrated and threatened by those who had the audacity to skirt around their wonderful concept of amateurism.
It was laughable. Schools, athletic departments, coaches, boosters and many others within the ecosystem of college sports, whether it’s the shoe companies or prospective agents, have long had a brazen relationship with the truth as it relates to the NCAA’s bullshit amateurism rules. Scandal, under-the-table cash and college athletics have long had an amorous relationship.
The laughable part about my situation was watching the look on the people’s faces at that news conference as the words “We have your playbook” were uttered.
We have your playbook???
The investigation was supposed to shake college basketball to its core, they said. Wholesale changes were coming. Heads were promised to roll.
The Ringer’s Mark Titus, when the news broke, wrote,
The higher-ups in the system have routinely exploited the fact that student-athletes don’t get any piece of the billion-dollar college-sports-industry pie, and unless drastic changes are made, athletes receiving money through illegal back channels will remain inevitable.
And now, some five years later, where’s the change? Oh, some heads definitely rolled, mostly African American middlemen like me and the assistant coaches. We lost our jobs, had to drain whatever savings we had for attorney fees, were sentenced to jail, had our reputations sullied and are left to figure where to go from here.
But what happened to the famous head coaches who not only knew about the payments, but who privately cursed me and other people out for not doing enough to ensure that they landed that one, singular, program-defining recruit, the ones who the FBI actually had on tape discussing payments, or bragging about the sweet deals they had offered to recruits and their families?
Their lives went on relatively unaffected.
“We have your playbook,” the FBI’s William Sweeney said at that press conference. “Our investigation is ongoing and we are conducting additional interviews as I speak.”
And now, five years later, did the FBI come back to admit that their case was a bunch of shit, run by a bunch of rogue agents that basically entrapped Christian Dawkins, the aspiring agent, and his friends like me and the assistant coaches? Of course they didn’t. But we’ll get back to that later.
So what has really changed? As of now, not a damn thing. It’s simply business as usual. And the worst-kept secret in all of sports, the dirty recruiting and the urinating on the NCAA rule book, continues unabated.
The show goes on.
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