American basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal defended his appearance in ads for bankrupt cryptocurrency company FTX, claiming he was “just a paid spokesperson”.
The NBA star turned broadcast analyst was named in a class action lawsuit against the exchange last monththat the alleged stars promoting the platform have lent it credibility.
He claims the likes of O’Neal, NFL veteran Tom Brady, comedian Larry David and tennis player Naomi Osaka they were therefore equally guilty of Sam Bankman-Friedthe FTP extension founder, who was blamed for his downfall.
O’Neal, who appeared in an ad for the company in June, insisted he has no real involvement.
“A lot of people think I’m involved, but I was just a paid spokesperson for a commercial,” he told CNBC Make It.
He added that “from my experience, it [crypto] it’s too good to be true.”
“I don’t understand it, so I’ll probably stay away from it until I have a full understanding of what it is,” she said.
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The key to FTX becoming one of the largest digital currency exchanges in the world was its simple interface, which made it easy and simple for people to start buying cryptocurrencies using fiat money.
Its rise with the unconventional Bankman-Fried at the helm has pushed it to a peak value of $26bn (£21bn), as he secured naming rights to sports stadiums and a growing roster of celebrity endorsements.
In a June ad, O’Neal said he is “partnering with FTX to help make cryptocurrencies accessible to all.”
Telling viewers that she checked her FTX account every day, she added, “I agree. What about you?”
O’Neal, 50, told CNBC that he is not “heavily involved” with the company or cryptocurrency in general.
“People know I’m very, very honest. I have nothing to hide,” he said.
“If I was heavily involved, I’d be up front saying ‘Hey.’ But I was just a paid spokesperson.”
He added that he has turned down other offers to shore up cryptocurrencies, which are facing calls for more regulation as governments respond to the FTX crisis.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission called it “one of the largest financial frauds in American history,” leaving Bankman-Fried risking a maximum sentence of 115 years in prison if convicted of all eight counts of defrauding and violating campaign finance laws.
The lawsuit naming FTX celebrity endorsers was filed in the Southern District of Florida.
He argues that the company’s use of “some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment” helped “keep this whole plan afloat.”