Embattled attorney Michael Avenatti said Nike “pulled a stunt” by having him arrested moments before he planned to disclose what he alleges is evidence of wrongdoing by the sportswear company.
“They knew they could not control me and they knew it was going to be disclosed,” Avenatti told CNBC’s “Closing Bell” on Monday,” adding that the brand is attempting “to try to discredit me.”
In March, Avenatti was arrested 15 minutes after he tweeted that he planned to reveal a basketball bribery scandal.
Avenatti was charged by federal prosecutors with four counts related to accusations that he plotted to siphon $22.5 million from the athletic company by threatening to disclose evidence of employee misconduct ahead of the company’s third-quarter report. Avenatti alleges that Nike paid bribes to basketball players to join collegiate teams that are sponsored by the brand, naming Duke’s star player Zion Williamson among others.
Asked by CNBC if he sought financial gain, he responded, “Here’s the bottom line, I had a client to represent. I went to Nike to settle a claim for a client. Part of it was Nike coming clean,” he claimed.
Nike “has been covering up this scandal for over five years,” Avenatti alleged. “They knew they could not control me… They effectively had to shoot the messenger.”
The footwear company has said in previous statements that it will cooperate with the government’s investigation, and “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.”
Over the weekend, the celebrity lawyer posted a 41-page document that he claimed served as evidence of the Beaverton, Ore.-based company’s alleged illicit payments to top college recruits. The documents included what Avenatti said were emails and text message conversations between Nike employees and associates of the players, as well as bank statements that showed the alleged payments.
In a series of tweets, the attorney posted what he said was a copy of a memo from early February describing a call between John Slusher, Nike’s executive EVP of global sports marketing, and an unnamed third party.
The purported creator of the memo claimed to have had a phone conversation with Slusher during which they discussed several accusations against two Nike Elite Youth Basketball executives. The memo states that he/she discussed with Slusher “ongoing corruption and illicit schemes” carried out by Nike Elite Youth Basketball executives Carlton DeBose and Jamal James. The document adds that Gary Franklin, director of the Nike-sponsored Amateur Athletic Union youth team called California Supreme, was directed to “submit fake invoices, make cash and bank-wire payments to handlers and family members of top Nike elite players,” including DeAndre Ayton and Brandon McCoy.
“Nike has known they bribed players for years and yet did nothing,” Avenatti claimed on Twitter.
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