adidas ransom ADIDAS REP DEFENDS FELIPE ‘DIDN’T DO ANYTHING BAD’
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Thursday, September 26, 1996, 12:00 AM
Adidas representative Sonny Vaccaro, who has acknowledged paying to fly St. John’s stars Felipe Lopez and Zendon Hamilton to Las Vegas six weeks ago so the two could work out with Seattle SuperSonics assistant Tim Grgurich, can understand how Lopez might have been confused when he said his brother Anthony picked up the bill for the trip.
“He didn’t know,” Vaccaro told the Daily News yesterday. “He just told the truth. That’s the sad part about it.
“I was trying to help Zendon and Felipe out, just like I’ve helped hundreds of kids out over the last 30 years. I asked the kids if they wanted to work out with Timmy who had worked with our counselors at the ABCD camp and I sent the airline tickets to Anthony Lopez and Zendon’s AAU coach Gary Charles.
“These are both good kids and I don’t expect anything to happen to them because it’s been established that I’ve known the kids long before this. Pam (Vaccaro’s wife) and I met Felipe and Zendon when they were sophomores in high school. I’ve been in their home. But according to Steve Mallonnee, the director of NCAA Legislative Services, there could be mitigating circumstances if there is a pre existing relationship should the case ever come before the infractions committee.
“I don’t want Felipe and Zendon to lose anything, not even an exhibition,” he said. “They didn’t do anything bad. “It’s me they want to get,” he said. “Nike wants want to discredit me and the (New York) Post makes it sound like I’m John Gotti’s nephew. If they kill me,
they must figure Adidas is dead. This trip occurred six weeks ago. But the stories didn’t start until a story broke about Nike buying high school coaches. John’s officials. His older brother, Anthony, who has worked for Adidas for the last three years, also was reluctant to comment.
“I don’t want to get my brother into any trouble,” Anthony said. “It just seems like when I open my mouth, the newspapers twist everything. I’d rather just keep it as it is. We’re not even going to talk about the situation. We’re just waiting for final results. John’s is conducting an internal investigation and has spoken with both Hamilton and Lopez. Stan Wilcox, the Big East director of compliance, has been in Chicago for meetings all week, but will continue speaking with the principals when he returns.
Vaccaro also shot down rumors he had sent Jeanine Mercer, who worked as a public relations consultant for Vaccaro’s camp and is the aunt of prep star Lamar Odom of Christ the King, a check for $35,000. “That’s ridiculous,” he said. “What’s this? The Iran Contra thing. I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done.