One of the problems with arbitration is that it’s private, which means the results never make it into the news. This poses a problem for those trying to use lawsuits in order to make a statement.
Rick Pitino recently sued Adidas for allegedly inflicting damage to his reputation after a corruption scandal that eventually resulted in him losing his job at Louisville. The defamation lawsuit sought both compensatory and punitive damages, although the complaint did not specify an amount for either one. According to Steve Pence, Pitino’s attorney, the lawsuit was less about the money than it was about trying to salvage Pitino’s reputation.
But shortly after Pitino filed the lawsuit, Adidas filed a motion to dismiss it, saying the case belonged in private arbitration outside of court. The judge agreed and dismissed the case.
It’s worth noting that the dismissal does not mean that Adidas is innocent of the allegations against it. All it means is that the U.S. court is not the proper jurisdiction to handle the dispute. But since the results of arbitration are never made public, Pitino’s stated main goal of clearing his name cannot be accomplished through arbitration.
In 2017, an FBI investigation linked Pitino with improper recruitment practices, specifically his connection with Brian Bowen, a five-star player who was allegedly paid $100,000 to commit to playing for the University of Louisville.
Pitino was initially placed on administrative leave in September of 2017 after the results of the FBI investigation were made public. He was fired just a few weeks later and Bowen ended up not playing for U of L.
Pitino has yet to do any more coaching since the scandal broke. No one wants a disgraced coach, so Pitino has sued both Louisville and Adidas. He sued Louisville for the $38.7 million that still remained on his contract at the time he was fired, and he sued the apparel company for allegedly playing fast and loose with his personal and professional reputations. Pitino maintains that he was known for his honesty and integrity before the money-funneling scandal was revealed and he was allegedly wrongfully connected to it.
But Adidas tells a different story. In addition to requesting the removal of the defamation case to private arbitration, the apparel company’s motion to dismiss also provided evidence that, in fact, Pitino was not only aware of the scheme to funnel money to athletic recruits, but actively supported it.
Pitino’s legal battle with the university’s athletic association is still ongoing.
Despite the millions at stake in the case, it makes sense for Pitino to be more concerned about his reputation than about how much money he might win in awards from the lawsuits he has filed. With such a black mark on his record, he has likely lost even more millions in potential income, since he would be hard pressed to find another school willing to hire a coach who was involved in such a scandal.
Nevertheless, filing the lawsuits was a risk on his part. One can never be certain which way a court will lean, so if he had been able to pursue his defamation lawsuit against Adidas in the U.S. court system and lost, it would have done, even more, irreparable damage to his reputation.
Our Park Ridge, IL libel and slander lawyers concentrate in this area of the law. We have defended or prosecuted a number of defamation and libel cases including cases representing a high profile athlete against a well known radio shock jock, a consumer sued by a large car dealer in federal court for negative internet reviews and videos, one of Loyola University’s largest contributors when the head basketball coach sued him for libel after he was fired, a lawyer who was falsely accused of committing fraud with the false allegation published to the Dean of the University of Illinois School of Law where the lawyer attended law school and the President of the University of Illinois.
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