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Nike, Major League Baseball Handle High-Stakes Probes In-House

Nov. 15, 2019, 11:01 AM

A pair of power players on the North American sports scene are looking to their in-house staff to help address scandals related to their core operations.

Nike Inc., which in October shuttered its Nike Oregon Project, has said publicly it will investigate abuse claims brought by athlete Mary Cain in a New York Times op-ed last week against the long-distance running program’s former coach.

Major League Baseball also confirmed this week that it would investigate allegations that the Houston Astros stole pitching signs from opposing teams in 2017, a season that resulted in the franchise’s World Series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

A source briefed on MLB’s investigation told Bloomberg Law that deputy general counsel and vice president of investigations Moira Weinberg is leading the investigation of the Astros. Weinberg reports to Bryan Seeley, a senior vice president and deputy general counsel for investigations, compliance, and security. Both lawyers are Harvard Law School graduates and former federal prosecutors.

It was not immediately clear who is representing the Astros in the league’s investigation. The team’s general counsel, Giles Kibbe, did not respond to a request for comment. Kibbe came under scrutiny in October over the team’s response to a Sports Illustrated reporter who accused a now former Astros employee’s comments directed at several female media members after a postseason game.

Astros Probe

In the past, the Astros have turned to Boies Schiller Flexner, which a half-dozen years ago handled a dispute for the team involving a television network. Proskauer Rose represented the Astros’ current owner Jim Crane on his $680 million purchase of the franchise in 2011.

As for Nike, a media representative said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg Law that the Beaverton, Ore.-based company would handle its Oregon Project investigation internally “as we determine the next steps.” Nike did not respond to a follow-up question about which individuals will have that responsibility.

Hilary Krane has served as Nike’s general counsel for nearly a decade. Ann Miller is Nike’s deputy general counsel and chief compliance officer. Neither returned requests for comment about how the Oregon Project probe will proceed. Nike folded the program in October after its coach, Alberto Salazar, was given a four-year doping suspension by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

The USADA decision banning Salazar was handed down on Sept. 30 by William Bock III, the organization’s general counsel and a partner at Indianapolis-based law firm Kroger Gardis & Regas. Federal tax filings by USADA, a registered nonprofit, show that it paid $1.5 million to Kroger Gardis for legal services between 2015 and 2017.

Sports Illustrated reported this week that eight more runners have come forward to support Cain’s claims of emotional abuse by Salazar. Cain was once a middle-distance running rising star, but saw her career stall under Salazar’s tutelage. He has denied any wrongdoing, but publicly admitted to using “callous” language.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com

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