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Naomi Osaka among FTX celebrity promoters sued by crypto investors
After the collapse of one of the world’s most valuable cryptocurrency exchanges, Osaka was named in an $11-billion class-action lawsuit alongside Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen and more.
Published Nov 16, 2022
WATCH: Naomi Osaka was just named in an $11 billion dollar cryptocurrency lawsuit, here are the details on The Break.
The news of the collapse of FTX, once one of the world’s most valuable cryptocurrency exchanges, has been rocking global markets since last week. And its effects might soon be felt in tennis, too.
Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka was among a constellation of sports celebrities—including Tom Brady, Stephen Curry and more—to be named as defendants in an $11-billion class-action lawsuit filed by FTX investors in Florida on Tuesday.
The doomed crypto trading company announced Osaka as a global ambassador in a “long-term” deal earlier this year in March, at the height its powers and $32 billion valuation. As a part of the deal, Osaka received an equity stake in the company as well as compensation in the form of crypto. The former world No. 1 also helped create branded content, and wore a “FTX” patch during her matches.
The company had also snapped up a number of sports teams’ stadium naming rights—including the Miami Heat—and ran a Super Bowl ad featuring comedian Larry David that implored viewers “Don’t Miss Out On Crypto”.
But FTX’s billions—including, presumably, Osaka’s lucrative sponsorship—went up in smoke last week when the cryptocurrency exchange filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on November 11. It was a move precipitated by a CoinDesk report that FTX was insolvent and mired in fraudulent financial practices, which triggered a crypto bank run that ultimately sent the company into financial collapse.
As the fallout continues to ripple throughout the crypto world, investors are now homing in on FTX’s dozens of celebrity ambassadors. The class-action lawsuit names Osaka, Brady, Curry and David alongside Gisele Bundchen, Shaquille O’Neal, Udonis Haslem, David Ortiz, Trevor Lawrence, Shohei Ohtani, Kevin O’Leary and the Golden State Warriors, seeking to make them responsible for $11 billion in damages.
"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 stated (full PDF).
Osaka was called out in the lawsuit for directing and producing a “glitzy ad” (above) posted to social media promoting her involvement with FTX, specifically targeting women and minorities:
"In exchange for an equity stake in FTX and payments in unspecified amounts of cryptocurrency, Osaka directed and produced content in association with the FTX Entities designed to promote the offer and sale of the unregistered YBA securities, hoping 'she will reach a global audience.'"
With the lawsuit still ongoing, it’s unclear how much Osaka or any of her fellow FTX ambassadors will have to pay to consumers in damages—or if they’ll have to pay up at all. The company's disgraced CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried, has reportedly fled to the Bahamas.
Osaka is currently ranked world No. 42, and has regularly topped the list of highest-earning female athletes in the world, with Sportico highlighting her $53.2 million haul in 2022 as the current biggest in women's sport. An estimated $52 million of that came from endorsements alone—Osaka promotes more than 20 companies—while the WTA’s website lists her year-to-date prize money earnings at $1.1 million.