As DOJ Cracks Down on FIFA, Are Powerful Multinationals Being Shielded from Public Exposure?

Although it is not clear why, top officials of Nike, widely suspected to be implicated in the scandal, appear to have so far dodged the public outings and arrests faced by FIFA's leadership. Photo depicts Nike Inc.'s CEO Mark Parker. (Photo: Reuters)

As DOJ Cracks Down on FIFA, Are Powerful Multinationals Being Shielded from Public Exposure?

Although not named in federal indictment, Nike is believed to be one of the companies implicated in the bribery and racketeering scandal

As the U.S. Department of Justice, in concert with European officials, launches a much-publicized crackdown on FIFA corruption, bribery, and racketeering, the powerful multinational corporation Nike--widely believed to be implicated in the scandal--has been largely shielded from the same public outing.

The discrepancy adds to suspicions that, despite the "tough-on-white-collar-crime" rhetoric of the DOJ, the agency is in fact far more willing to aggressively go after the Zurich-headquartered soccer enterprise and smaller companies than powerful multinationals and financial institutions.

The DOJ announced on Wednesday that it is levying charges against 9 FIFA officials and 5 corporate executives, and Swiss authorities raided FIFA's headquarters and arrested officials pending their extradition to the United States.

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch emphasized the DOJ's "get tough" attitude in statements Wednesday: "Today's action makes clear that this Department of Justice intends to end any such corrupt practices, to root out misconduct, and to bring wrongdoers to justice - and we look forward to continuing to work with other countries in this effort."

Although it is not clear why, the DOJ appears not to be subjecting some of the corporations involved in the scandal to the same level of public exposure as the FIFA officials.

The indictment directly references a "a major U.S. sportswear company" allegedly involved in bribery related to the Brazilian national soccer team. However, this "major U.S. sportswear company" was left unnamed.

As Washington Post writer Drew Harwell spells out, "Although investigators will not name the company, the indictment says the sportswear firm signed a 10-year, $160 million sponsorship deal with the Brazilian team in 1996, closely matching Nike's clothes, shoes and equipment deal with the team that year."

The New York Times also pointed to Nike as the likely culprit, running the headline Wednesday: "Nike Says It's Cooperating With Authorities in FIFA Probe."

However, no high-profile raids of Nike's Oregon headquarters, or arrests of their high-ranking officials, have been reported since Wednesday's announcement. Furthermore, Nike is not named anywhere in the DOJ's indictment announcement.

As Common Dreams noted Wednesday, many are already raising questions about why the DOJ has failed to target bankers, politicians, and one-percenters in the United States.

This does not, however, mean that FIFA's hands are clean. The soccer enterprise, along with the companies and governments it does business with, faces a host of charges, including involvement in worker abuse, modern-day slavery, prison labor, mass displacement of poor and Indigenous peoples, and severe environmental irresponsibility.

In a statement released Thursday, Minky Worden, director of global initiatives for Human Rights Watch, denounced the "crises--including human rights abuses and corruption--that are undermining the foundations of football's management."

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