Avenatti tweeted Tuesday that both the Suns' rookie and the Ducks' injured star were paid by Nike but did not provide evidence.

By Emily Caron
March 26, 2019

One day after his arrest, lawyer Michael Avenatti took to Twitter on Tuesday to follow through on his promise to "disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by [Nike]." The alleged Nike scandal reportedly included paying high school basketball stars during their recruitment in a scheme similar to the one perpetrated by several former Adidas executives now involved in the ongoing college basketball fraud scandal.

Avenatti alleges that both Suns rookie Deandre Ayton and University of Oregon center Bol Bol, son of former NBA star Manute Bol, received funds from Nike in the scheme but provided no specifics or evidence to support his claims.

"Ask Deandre Ayton and Nike about the cash payments to his mother and others," Avenatti tweeted Tuesday. "Nike’s attempt at diversion and cover-up will fail miserably once prosecutors realize they have been played by Nike and their lawyers at [the law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner]. This reaches the highest levels of Nike."

Ayton, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft, played one season for the Nike-sponsored Arizona Wildcats before turning pro. Avenatti also alleges that Bol Bol "and his handlers" received money from Nike to play at Oregon, another school sponsored by the shoe and apparel giant.

"Bol Bol and his handlers also received large sums from Nike," Avenatti continued on Twitter. "The receipts are clear as day. A lot of people at Nike will have to account for their criminal conduct, starting with [Nike's Director of Elite Youth Basketball] Carlton DeBose & moving higher up. The diversion charade they orchestrated against me will be exposed."

According to The Oregonian’s James Crepea, Oregon coach Dana Altman said, "I don’t have any information on that. I have no reason to believe any of it’s accurate. Until I get more information I don’t have any comment."

Avenatti was arrested on Monday on federal charges of extortion, wire fraud and bank fraud after he reportedly tried to extort Nike for more than $20 million. He was indicted in New York on the extortion charges and in Los Angeles in the unrelated bank and wire fraud counts.

According to the New York indictment, Avenatti threatened Nike that he had a client who was a former AAU basketball coach willing to disclose “evidence that one or more Nike employees had authorized and funded payments to the families of top high school players.” ESPN reported Monday, and Yahoo Sports confirmed, that the AAU coach in question is Gary Franklin of California Supreme, who coached Ayton and many other elite prospects before recently being cut by Nike.

Avenatti reportedly demanded millions in payments not to publicize the information he "uncovered." He was arrested Monday shortly after he announced that he was holding a press conference on Tuesday to disclose Nike's alleged scheme.

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