Lawyer Michael Avenatti continued to attack Nike on Monday, accusing the sports apparel giant of engaging in bribery in order to entice top college athletes into lucrative contracts and reprising a previous claim involving Duke University star Zion Williamson.
Williamson, who last week was named AP Player of the Year and CBS Sports Player and Freshman of the Year, is expected to be the top pick in the NBA draft. Avenatti claimed that Nike paid Williamson's mother for phoney consulting services. She has not commented on the allegations.
"For years, Nike and its executives have been funneling payments to amateur players, high school players, and to their handlers and family members, in an effort to get them to go to colleges that were 'Nike colleges' and ultimately to .... sign a shoe deal with Nike," Avenatti recently told CBS News' Jericka Duncan.
Nike declined to respond to Avenatti's accusations over the weekend. "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," the company said in a statement. "Nike will continue its cooperation with the government's investigation into grassroots basketball and the related extortion case."
New York prosecutor chargedwith attempting to extort $20 million from Nike by threatening to release damaging information about the company if it didn't meet his demands. The U.S. attorney in Los Angeles separately announced Avenatti faces bank and wire fraud charges for allegedly embezzling money from a client and defrauding a bank through fake tax returns.