The lawsuit accuses Shaquille O’Neal and other professional athletes of abetting what the federal government has since described as one of the greatest financial frauds in recent times.
Shaquille O’Neal has pushed back against a lawsuit that accuses him, and other prominent professional athletes, who promoted the FTX cryptocurrency exchange.
According to FOX News, the lawsuit describes O’Neal, Tom Brady, Stephen Curry, David Ortiz, Shohei Ohtani, Trevor Lawrence, and others as “parties who controlled, promoted, assisted in and actively participated in FTX Trading and FTX US” transactions.
However, O’Neal told reporters that he is relatively unconcerned about being named as a defendant in the recently filed claim.
“A lot of people think I’m involved, but I was just a paid spokesperson for a commercial,” O’Neal told CNBC. “I don’t understand it, so I will probably stay away from it until I get a full understanding of what it is.”
While O’Neal maintains that he does not know much about cryptocurrency, he did tell CNBC that he felt that FTX and other cryptocurrency investment opportunities seemed “too good to be true.”
The lawsuit, notes FOX News, seeks to hold O’Neal and his counterparts “responsible for the many billions of dollars in damages they caused Plaintiff and the Classes and to force Defendants to make them whole.”
“The Deceptive and failed FTX Platform was based upon false representations and deceptive conduct,” the lawsuit alleges. “Although many incriminating FTX emails and texts have already been destroyed, we located them and they evidence how FTX’s fraudulent scheme was designed to take advantage of unsophisticated investors from across the country, who utilize mobile apps to make their investments. As a result, American consumers collectively sustained over $11 billion dollars in damages.”
Sky News notes that FTX, once one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency platforms, succeeded in part because of its easy-to-use interface that made purchasing cryptocurrency convenient.
During its heyday, FTX had a peak value of about $26 billion; the company not only aggressively pursued potential celebrity spokespeople, but secured naming rights for sports stadiums and other public venues.
In a June advertisement, O’Neal told consumers that he was “partnering with FTX to help make crypto accessible to everyone.”
During the same advertisement, O’Neal challenged viewers, saying that he checked his FTX account every day.
“I’m all in,” O’Neal said. “Are you?”
Nevertheless, O’Neal has since told reporters that he has never been “heavily involved” in cryptocurrency trading.
“People know I’m very, very honest,” he said. “I have nothing to hide.”
“If I was heavily involved, I would be at the forefront saying, ‘Hey’. But I was just a paid spokesperson,” O’Neal stressed.
FTX began to collapse when the value of its native cryptocurrency, FTT, nosedived in mid-2022.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has since labeled FTX as “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history.”
The company’s founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, was recently arrested in the Bahamas and extradited to the United States at the federal government’s request.
The lawsuit broadly contends that FTX used “some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment,” including O’Neal, to drive consumer engagement and artificially inflate the exchange prices of its currencies.