Michael Avenatti accuses Nike of paying college athletes a day after he was charged with trying to extort the company for $20 million
- Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti accused Nike of bribery in a series of tweets on Tuesday, one day after he was served with extortion charges involving the company.
- Avenatti wrote that the case against him that says he attempted to extort more than $20 million from the company was an attempt to "divert attention" from Nike's "own crimes."
- The lawyer claimed in his tweets that two basketball players, Deandre Ayton and Bol Bol, or their "handlers" were paid by Nike's youth basketball league.
Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti accused Nike of trying to "divert attention" from an alleged payment scandal that he says involved Nike's youth basketball program and top college players a day after he was charged by the Department of Justice with allegedly attempting to extort the company.
In a series of tweets Tuesday morning, Avenatti began by quoting a September 2017 CBS Sports report that said Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League had been served with a subpoena as part of a series of investigations into bribery in college basketball.
Avenatti resurfaced the report on the case to comment that charges from New York federal prosecutors against the lawyer for allegedly attempting to extort more than $20 million from Nike are an attempt at distraction from the company's "own crimes."
"Contrary to Nike's claims yesterday, they have NOT been cooperating with investigators for over a year. Unless you count lying in response to subpoenas and withholding documents as 'cooperating.' They are trying to divert attention from their own crimes."
Avenatti claimed in his tweets that 20-year-old Arizona Suns player DeAndre Ayton, who spent one year at the University of Arizona before joining the professional team as their 2018 top draft pick, was paid by Nike. "Ask DeAndre Ayton and Nike about the cash payments to his mother and others," he wrote in one tweet.
Avenatti made accusations against Oregon Ducks center Bol Bol as well, writing "Bol Bol and his handlers also received large sums from Nike. The receipts are clear as day."
"A lot of people at Nike will have to account for their criminal conduct, starting with Carlton DeBose & moving higher up. The diversion charade they orchestrated against me will be exposed," he continued.
In October, two Adidas officials and agent were found guilty in federal court of wire fraud in a similarly constructed scandal, that saw college recruits receiving payments from the company as inventive to attend schools whose teams were sponsored by the company.
The accusations seemed to fulfill Avenatti's promise a day earlier that he would reveal a "major high school/college basketball scandal."
Prosecutors from the Southern District of New York said in charging documents released shortly after the tweet that Avenatti tried to get the money by "threatening to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial & reputational harm on the company [Nike] if his demands were not met."
In a court filing, an FBI agent wrote that Avenatti said he would hold a press conference alleging misconduct by Nike unless he and another lawyer were paid between $15 million and $25 million to conduct an internal investigation, or were given $22.5 million to resolve their client's claims and in exchange for their silence.
"Full confidentiality, we ride off into the sunset," Avenatti allegedly told a Nike representative, according to the FBI agent.
Avenatti was arrested and released Monday on $300,000 bond. In a press conference after his release, Avenatti said he expects to be "fully exonerated."
Sonam Sheth contributed reporting.
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