Michael Avenatti accuses Nike of paying Zion Williamson’s mom Sharonda Sampson
Michael Avenatti has kicked his Nike accusations into high gear.
Avenatti, an attorney known for representing Stormy Daniels in her case against Donald Trump, is being accused of attempting to extort Nike. He allegedly threatened to go public with accusations against Nike if they did not pay him.
Avenatti has decided to go public in the last 24 hours with his accusations anyway.
On Friday night, Avenatti accused Nike exec Carlton DeBose of bribing high schoolers so that they would attend Nike-sponsored colleges. He later accused Nike of making payments to Zion Williamson’s mother Sharonda Sampson for bogus “consulting services”, which he says were bribes.
.@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.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 6, 2019
Williamson ended up choosing to attend Duke for college. The Blue Devils have been sponsored by Nike since 1992, and Coach K has extremely strong ties to the brand. He has previously denied any wrongdoing in a scandal involving improper payments that has rocked the college basketball world.
Duke says they are aware of the allegations and are investigating matters.
“We are aware of the allegation and, as we would with any compliance matter, are looking into it. Duke is fully committed to compliance with all NCAA rules and regulations,” Duke AD Kevin White wrote in a statement to The Chronicle. “Every student athlete at Duke is reviewed to ensure their eligibility. With regard to men’s basketball: all recruits and their families are thoroughly vetted by Duke in collaboration with the NCAA through the Eligibility Center’s amateurism certification process.”
Nike says they will not respond to Avenatti’s claims.
“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 apparel company said in a statement via Dan Wetzel.
Avenatti continues to assert that Nike is guilty.
“Nike is guilty of rampant criminal conduct in bribing players for years and has been striving for weeks now to distract away from their bribery and fraud perpetrated at the highest levels. They knew they could not keep it secret any longer so they lied to the government and enlisted them in their scheme. If I’m lying about what Nike has done, why don’t they deny the bribery? They are guilty as hell.”
In case you are unfamiliar with how these bribery schemes work, sneaker companies have a lot to gain in sales through brand exposure. They sponsor college programs as part of their marketing, and being linked to star athletes and winning programs helps their brand and sales. Some companies believe that if they can bribe top high school athletes to play for college programs they sponsor, they will have a lot to gain. They also are attempting to build relationships with these athletes in case they become stars in the pros. A star player like Zion is extremely attractive to these companies; fans will want to buy Williamson’s gear, which is why so many companies are competing to sign him as he enters the NBA.