Attorney Michael Avenatti continued his accusations of foul play against Nike Inc. today in a series of tweets with allegations of misconduct by the sportswear giant’s employees, adding rising star baller Zion Williams’ name, claiming his mother received payments by Nike.
“.@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.”
“I almost forgot – long day – @DukeMBB can you also have your close friends at @Nike check their Nike Vendor Portal for payments to “Sharonda Sampson Consulting”. Just search 2016 to the present. Appreciate it.”
Moments earlier, he doubled down on previous accusations he’s made against the company.
“Carlton DeBose, a Nike executive, has bribed over 100 high school players over the last 4 years to play college basketball at colleges affiliated with Nike as opposed to other schools. He has used bogus invoices and countless coaches to further the scheme & deliver the $…”
Continuing, “Nike’s most senior execs knew about it and looked the other way, as did many of the colleges. Nike also undertook large efforts to hide it from the NCAA & federal investigators. Some colleges lost out on some of the best high school recruits because of Nike’s bribes…”
“If I am lying, @nike should issue a stmt immediately stating no such payments were ever made and calling me out. They won’t because they know it is 100% true and they covered-up for years.”
The statement via Twitter comes after 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. On March 25 it was revealed a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York posited that the lawyer’s threat was timed ahead of the release of Nike’s third-quarter earnings report as well as the start of the annual 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,” the company said in a statement to FN. “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 released photos on Twitter that he claimed were evidence of Nike’s alleged cash payments to NBA star Deandre Ayton when the athlete was still a high school student. (Ayton is a Puma ambassador.) Avenatti also revealed emails, dated June 2016, that he claims showed the firm’s payment of $10,000 to Ayton’s mother months before he started his senior year at Hillcrest Prep Academy in Arizona.
Avenatti also released screenshots of what is allegedly a 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 alleged exchange revealed DeBose’s query on whether Franklin got “money from the invoice” and Franklin confirming receipt.
“Nike should be criminally indicted as a corporation because they’re dirty and they’ve been dirty for years,” Avenatti said in the TMZ video. “The stunt they pulled this week is outrageous, and I’m looking forward to the truth and the facts coming to light because they lied to the government, and they played the government and prosecutors. And once the government and prosecutors realize what happened, Nike is going to be in a lot of trouble.”
Rival sportswear brand Adidas also made headlines this month when former director of global sports marketing James “Jim” Gatto received a nine-month prison sentence for his role in the NCAA pay-for-play scandal that surfaced in 2017. The trial saw Gatto, sports industry business manager Christian Dawkins and ex-Adidas consultant Merl Code admit to funneling payments to the families of top basketball recruits in the hopes of joining Adidas-sponsored programs.
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