There’s a plot twist for celebs who signed on to promote cryptocurrency companies as the market boomed in 2020 and 2021: If things go left, you might find yourself in court.
The test case dropped Wednesday, when a class action suit that was filed on behalf of customers of the now-bankrupt crypto platform FTX also named several of the company’s celeb endorsers as defendants, including basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, former NBA champion Udonis Haslem and current champ Stephen Curry, tennis champion Naomi Osaka, baseball Hall of Famer David Ortiz, NFL GOAT Tom Brady, his ex-wife Gisele Bundchen and Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary. The crux of the case is exactly how much should celebs who endorse financial investments and companies be held liable, if at all, for losses sustained by people who pour money into risky bets like crypto.
If you haven’t followed the story, FTX was among several high-flying crypto trading platforms that rode the wave of Bitcoin and other digital currencies’ frothy valuations over the past several years. But FTX went belly up amidst a broader crash in cryptocurrency taking billions of dollars of VC money and customer deposits with it. Now, some of those investors not only want to hold the company’s former crypto-bro CEO Sam Bankman-Fried responsible, but they also want accountability from celebs who they say irresponsibly pumped FTX.
“Part of the scheme employed by the FTX Entities involved utilizing some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment—like these Defendants—to raise funds and drive American consumers to invest...pouring billions of dollars into the Deceptive FTX Platform to keep the whole scheme afloat,” the lawsuit says. It goes on to point out that other celebs, from boxing king Floyd Mayweather Jr., to influencer Kim Kardashian, producer DJ Khaled and retired NBA star Paul Pierce, have all been previously sanctioned or “similarly accused and prosecuted” for their roles in pushing crypto schemes.
Ironically, the lawsuit echoes a bit from the first season of trained-economist- turned-sports-media-celeb Bomani Jones’ HBO show, Game Theory, in which Jones cautions his audience about being taken in by celebrity pitchmen for “funny money.”
“When I see all these crytpo advertisements in sports, all I can see is a lotta hustlers who think they found their mark: you.”