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

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As if Adidas isn’t already up past its high-tops in the recent college basketball scandal, now the sports apparel giant could be part of a class-action lawsuit against a convicted Iowa youth basketball coach and the program in which he once was a co-director.

Des Moines attorney Guy Cook — who is representing boys victimized by former youth league co-director and coach Greg Stephen, the Iowa Barnstormers youth basketball program, and the AAU — told the Register that his staff is looking into whether Adidas, a Barnstormers financial supporter, should also be included in the 26-page suit that was filed last November in Johnson County District Court.

“We are looking at whether there should be any other defendants in the case,” Cook said in an interview with the Register Friday. “When we filed the suit, we indicated we’re still doing our own discovery on whether any other parties are responsible for what took place — or parties that failed to exercise ordinary care that could have prevented this.

“Adidas, as a sponsor of the program, we feel has a relationship and duty to exercise ordinary care to ensure that people representing their products acted reasonably in vetting those persons, and whether they followed proper protocol,” Cook told the Register. “We’re studying that aspect of the case.”

U.S. District Judge C.J. Williams sentenced Stephen to 180 years in prison on May 2 for soliciting explicit images, capturing secret nude video and photos and inappropriately touching hundreds of boys between 1999 and February 2018.

More: Peterson: Where's the outrage from the Greg Stephen child sex abuse scandal?

“This is a horrendous offense,” the judge said when rejecting Stephen’s attorney’s leniency plea. “He exploited, manipulated and abused children for almost two decades.”

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

The Barnstormers is a well-known, high-level grassroots basketball program based in North Liberty. It not only teaches the game to young children through instruction and games in and outside the state of Iowa, but also serves as a means for members to be seen by college basketball coaches. A good number of high-level Division I basketball players played for them. 

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.”

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Adidas declined a Register request for comment after the Stephen story broke in 2018, and declined a request for comment after the May 2 sentencing.

An Adidas spokesperson wrote in an email to the Register on May 6 that: “I would encourage you to get in touch with the Barnstormers directly on items of this matter.”

I followed Adidas’ response with this email: “Just to be clear: Adidas has no comment on a convicted child abuser operating within an amateur basketball program funded by Adidas. Is that accurate?”

Crickets. 

However, here’s what Jamie Johnson, who founded the Barnstormers in 2005 and is the program’s executive director, wrote in an email to the Register last week:

“Our families have been through enough and still want to move forward and be involved or we wouldn’t exist. This has been investigated by DCI and FBI and Mr. Stephen has been convicted and for that we are all grateful.”

Cook’s class-action lawsuit, filed Jan. 28, 2019, seeks unspecified damages. The lawsuit also seeks a jury trial.

Sports columnist Randy Peterson has been with the Register for parts of five decades. Randy writes opinion and analysis of stuff related to college athletics. You can reach Randy at rpeterson@dmreg.com or on Twitter at @RandyPete.

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