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Apparel giant Adidas added to lawsuit against disgraced Iowa youth basketball coach who sexually exploited at least 440 boys

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Class action lawsuit filed against Greg Stephen, Barnstormers basketball club and AAU
Rodney White, rodwhite@dmreg.com

Sports apparel giant Adidas has been added to a class-action lawsuit against a disgraced Iowa youth basketball coach and the basketball program he helped lead.

Des Moines attorney Guy Cook, representing the children victimized by former Iowa Barnstormers coach and co-director Greg Stephen, told the Register that Adidas was added in an amended filing with the Iowa District Court for Johnson County in Iowa.

The Barnstormers play on the Adidas-sponsored traveling basketball circuit. Stephen was sentenced to 180 years in early May for soliciting explicit images, capturing secret nude video and photos and inappropriately touching hundreds of boys over the course of almost two decades. Prosecutors said Stephen had at least 440 victims in that span. 

According to the amended filing, “Adidas negotiated its sponsorship of (the Barnstormers) through … Stephen. 

“Adidas declares that it is all about sports. Adidas’ web site states ‘this is where we come from, everything we do is rooted in sport. … Therefore we believe that, through sport, we have the power to change lives.'”

The lawsuit goes on to read: “Adidas is aware that minor children are at risk of being sexually exploited by adults, especially by adults in positions of power, and especially adults involved with amateur sports organizations.”

Additionally, it says that “Adidas failed to exercise reasonable care to interview, investigate, or otherwise engage in any due diligence to determine whether (the Barnstormers) employed any protocols or procedures that would ensure minor athletes it was sponsoring were being adequately chaperoned and protected from breaches of their safety and privacy of exactly the type perpetuated by … Stephen.”

Stephen, in his time leading the Barnstormers program, routinely slept in the same bed as the youth athletes. Multiple victims said they woke to find Stephen touching his penis or theirs. 

Adidas has repeatedly declined a Register request for comment after the Stephen story broke in 2018. They have referred comment previously to the Barnstormers. 

Stephen joined the Barnstormers as a co-director in 2006 — seven years after the transgressions against boys were said to have started. His relationship with the Barnstormers ended before his March 2018 arrest.

The Barnstormers are a well-known high-level AAU basketball program based in North Liberty that not only teaches the game to young children, but also serves as a means to be seen by college recruiters with the hopes of gaining a scholarship.

Adidas typically provides uniforms and shoes for participants in programs they sponsor. The Iowa Barnstormers play in the Adidas gauntlet series, which the Barnstormers’ website calls “the most competitive high school grassroots league in the country.”

The team is currently playing this week at the Adidas Summer Championships in Birmingham, Alabama. 

Cook’s class-action lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. The lawsuit also seeks a jury trial.

Source: Des Moines Register