This weekend, attorney Michael Avenatti continued to accuse Nike of making payments to the families of top high school basketball players, taking to Twitter to release documents that he believes support his claim.
The documents, shared in PDF form through Dropbox, allege that about $170,000 was paid by Nike to people connected to top recruits such as DeAndre Ayton, Bol Bol and Brandon McCoy. Additional details in the documents suggest that some of the payments were billed to Nike through fraudulent invoices disguised as business expenses.
2/2 - Nike should be criminally indicted on well over 200 counts and should also explain why they misled their investors/the SEC. If I'm lying or the docs are not legit, I challenge @nike to issue a stmt claiming no bribes were ever paid. Just Do It Nike!https://t.co/4gi8MQRcQB— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 6, 2019
Avenatti also reinforced his accusations against Nike Director of Elite Youth Basketball Carlton DeBose, who he says was involved in the payouts.
If Carlton Debose of Nike has not been suspended or terminated yet, that will tell you everything you need to know about how high this goes. And trust me, it goes well North of him. Nike is terrified to fire him because they know he will flip on those above. Buckle up @Nike.— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 6, 2019
Another takeaway from Avenatti's recent tweet storm is an accusation that Nike paid Zion Williamson's mother Sharonda Sampson as a bribe to get him to play at Duke. According to ESPN, Duke athletic director Kevin White said the school is "looking into" the claim.
.@DukeMBB - About this denial by Coach K the other day relating to payments by Nike...Can you please ask Zion Williamson’s mother - Sharonda Sampson - whether she was paid by @nike for bogus “consulting services” in 2016/17 as part of a Nike bribe to get Zion to go to Duke? Thx.— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 6, 2019
Williamson, the projected top overall pick in June's NBA Draft, is expected to receive potential record-breaking offers for his services from sneaker companies this summer. He dominated headlines in February, when he blew out his Nike PG 2.5 sneakers, causing him to miss a month of action due to a knee sprain. Avenatti has yet to provide visual proof of any payments to persons connected to Williamson.
Avenatti, perhaps best known for representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, is facing federal extortion charges against Nike, with up to 100 years in prison on the table if he's convicted of them all.
In a statement to Yahoo Sports, Nike stated the following in response to Avenatti's accusations:
“Nike will not respond to the allegations of an individual facing federal charges of fraud and extortion and aid in his disgraceful attempts to distract from the athletes on the court at the height of the tournament. Nike will continue its cooperation with the government's investigation into grassroots basketball and the related extortion case.”
Despite facing federal charges, Avenatti continues to be aggressive in his public position against Nike.
If my claims about @Nike bribing over 100 players, including some of the biggest stars of the last 5 years, was bogus or baseless, Nike would simply say so. They would flatly deny the allegations & call me out. But they can’t bc they are guilty. So instead, they try and distract.— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 7, 2019