Michael Avenatti’s allegations of Nike Inc. foul play continued Saturday, with the lawyer sharing documents he claims prove the athletic giant illicitly paid top college athletes.
As part of the tweet storm, the attorney included several dozen documents that he said proves that last year’s No. 1 overall draft pick, DeAndre Ayton, was illegally paid by Nike as a collegiate, along with current G League player and former five-star recruit Brandon McCoy. The 40-plus pages of documents include what Avenatti claims are email and text message chains between Nike employees and associates of the players, along with bank statements demonstrating illicit payments.
“Here is a link to only SOME of the evidence showing Nike bribed players to attend ‘Nike’ colleges. This evidence is now in the hands of law enforcement. Nike bribed over 100 players as part of their scheme and purposely hid the payments from the NCAA & fed investigators,” Avenatti wrote on Twitter. “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!”
“I’m still waiting for @nike to call me a liar and state they have not been bribing players for years to go to ‘Nike’ colleges in violation of countless federal criminal statutes,” Avenatti continued.
Nike did, however, issue a statement to FN: “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.”
The lawyer had made additional claims of wrongdoing on Nike’s part in a separate set of tweets late Friday, stating that Duke freshman star Zion Williamson was among the players bribed by the Oregon-based sportswear company.
Avenatti had previously shared images he said prove Ayton received money from Nike while still in high school (Ayton is now a Puma ambassador). He also released screenshots of an alleged conversation between Nike sports marketer Carlton DeBose, who managed Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League, and Gary Franklin, director of the Nike-sponsored Amateur Athletic Union youth team called California Supreme.
The document dump on Saturday included more alleged evidence against DeBose, including what Avenatti said are text messages between the executive and athletes’ handlers and invoices made out to DeBose.
Avenatti’s tweets of Nike ill-doing come after he was charged with four counts based on accusations that he attempted to extort $22.5 million from the athletic giant by threatening to make evidence of alleged employee misconduct public. Court documents state that Avenatti planned to reveal information before the company’s quarterly earnings call and the start of the NCAA basketball tournament.
“When Nike became aware of Mr. Avenatti’s plans to extort the company, Nike immediately reported this, along with the information he shared, to federal prosecutors. Nike has been cooperating with the government’s investigation into NCAA basketball for over a year,” Nike said in a statement about the case in March. “We encourage Mr. Avenatti to share any information he believes he has with the government, as we have done. Nike firmly believes in ethical and fair play, both in business and sports, and will continue to assist the prosecutors.”
Avenatti has claimed his innocence throughout the extortion case, saying he engaged in ” tough negotiations” with Nike but did not attempt to siphon funds from the athletic wear giant.
Watch FN’s interview with Nike trainer Joe Holder below.
How Michael Avenatti May Have Crossed the Line Between Negotiation and Extortion in Nike Case
5 of the Most Explosive Details From the Michael Avenatti-Nike Extortion Case