Nike ripped into attorney Michael Avenatti on Saturday after he accused the company of paying off high school athletes to play basketball at colleges associated with its brand.
Avenatti went on the offensive again following his arrest last month on charges of fraud and attempting to extort Nike. The embattled lawyer raised the allegations on Twitter Saturday, adding to a series of claims he has made about Nike since March.
Nike said in a statement to HuffPost that the company “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 [NCAA basketball] tournament.”
Nike will “continue its cooperation with the government’s investigation into grassroots basketball and the related extortion case,” the statement added.
Avenatti claimed on Twitter that Nike “bribed over 100 players as part of their scheme and purposely hid the payments from the NCAA & fed investigators.” He claimed that the business “should be criminally indicted on well over 200 counts.”
Avenatti linked in his tweets to a 41-page Dropbox file that he claims provides “only SOME of the evidence.”
“If I’m lying or the docs are not legit, I challenge @nike to issue a [statement] claiming no bribes were ever paid,” he added.
Within the documents appear to be bank records listing alleged payments from 2016 and 2017 to individuals linked to three players. According to Avenatti, those include the players’ so-called “handlers,” family members and a coach. HuffPost has not verified the authenticity of the documents.
Avenatti claims this was “initiated, authorized and directed by” Nike Elite Youth Basketball executives, and that fake invoices were used to bill some of the tens of thousands of dollars to the company.
The purported document dump also includes images of what he claims are text messages.
Duke University, which did not appear to be implicated in the linked documents, said it has begun “looking into” a previous claim from Avenatti that Nike paid the mother of player Zion Williamson, according to a Friday report from the school’s student newspaper.
In March, Avenatti was apprehended in New York and accused of blackmailing Nike by threatening to release damaging information about the company in a press conference if it refused to give him and another unidentified individual a multimillion-dollar payout.
In California, the attorney was hit with a second round of federal charges, for bank and wire fraud, and was accused of using a client’s money to pay his own personal expenses.
In an interview with CBS News following his arrest, Avenatti maintained his innocence, contending that “the facts are on my side.”
The attorney rose to prominence in 2018 while representing porn star Stormy Daniels in her legal battle with President Donald Trump, who she claims gave her hush money for her silence on an affair they had.
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