Michael Avenatti quickly went from hero to zero after claims he was swindling his clients out of money came to light. The disgraced lawyer, who did help get R. Kelly out the paint, is still insisting that Nike paid Zion Williams under the table while he was still in high school, which the brand vehemently denies.
According to ESPN, lawyers for Avenatti filed a motion that claims a Nike employee approved “under-the-table” payments to Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford when they were high school basketball stars in February 2017.
Williamson would go on to star at Duke (and recently inked an endorsement deal with Jordan Brand) while Longford headed to Indiana and bother were selected in the 2019 NBA Draft.
The alleged offers — $35,000 or more for Williamson and $20,000 for Langford — were purportedly discovered among “text messages, e-mails and other documents from 2016-17 … proving that Nike executives had arranged for and concealed payments, often in cash, to amateur basketball players and their families and ‘handlers,'” according to the motion filed in U.S. District Court in New York.
Nike refuses to give the allegations credence.
“Nike will not respond to the allegations of an individual facing federal charges of fraud and extortion,” said Nike in a statement. “Nike will continue its cooperation with the government’s investigation into grassroots basketball and the related extortion case.”
This is where we point out that Avenatti got pinched by the Feds in March for trying to extort $25M from Nike by saying he would expose improper payments to AAU players. At the time, Avenatti claimed it was star players DeAndre Ayton and Bol Bol who got hit off with cash.
The full story has plenty of smoke, read it here.