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Muckraking lawyer and alleged extortionist Michael Avenatti continued his online barrage against Nike on Wednesday, the same company he’s been accused of trying to shakedown more than $20 million from.
In a tweet that marks the latest twist in a wild 24 hours in the basketball recruiting space, Avenatti documented what he alleges is a $10,000 payment from Nike to Andrea Ayton, the mother of Phoenix Suns rookie DeAndre Ayton. Using text messages, emails and bank records, Avenatti laid out the logistics of an alleged payment that he infers would be both illegal and in violation of NCAA rules.
Avenatti sent out a tweet with the #receipts hashtag and says the documents are “in the hands of prosecutors.” He said on Twitter: “Nike had cash hand delivered to avoid discovery by law enforcement and the NCAA.”
The documents show an alleged exchange between the most important member of Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL), Carlton DeBose, and long-time Nike-sponsored AAU coach Gary Franklin. On Monday, Franklin became a household name in college basketball when it was revealed that he was the AAU coach who lost his $72,000 deal from Nike and allegedly conspired with Avenatti to extort Nike. (Franklin has not been charged.)
"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 Nike colleges and ultimately, hopefully to the NBA so they could sign a shoe deal with Nike," Avenatti told CBS News.
After Avenatti was arrested, he promised he would cooperate with the NCAA in showing Nike’s illicit activity by providing “names, dates, amounts, texts, emails, bogus invoices, bank records, wire payments, cash payments.”
He followed through on Wednesday with a tweet that included four documents.
The first document shows an alleged text conversation in June 2016 in which DeBose asks Franklin: “Who can get on a flight to PHX for Wednesday from your program that you can trust?”
Franklin volunteers to do it.
The second document provided by Avenatti allegedly shows DeBose arranging Franklin’s travel through a member of Nike’s sports marketing team. The third document is what appears to be bank records showing two $5,000 withdrawals from Franklin’s account.
The final document allegedly shows DeBose asking Franklin, “Have you talked to Andrea?” in reference to Ayton’s mother. Franklin responds: “Yes she gave me her address just now.”
The exchange lays out what Avenatti alleged in his first tweet that riveted the college basketball world on Monday. (Avenatti is a familiar presence on cable television after representing Stormy Daniels, the adult actress who claimed to be romantically linked to Donald Trump.)
Avenatti claimed he was going to reveal in a press conference “criminal conduct [that] reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.”
After Avenatti tweeted about holding the press conference to expose Nike, he was arrested by federal officials within an hour. He was charged in the Southern District of New York, the same place that produced the initial federal basketball corruption investigation that arose in September of 2017. (There are still two trials scheduled from the three cases that arose from that, as three men, including two Adidas employees, were found guilty of conspiracy.)
DeBose held the most important job in Nike’s grassroots division, as he controlled budgets and decided whether coaches like Franklin would get funding for their programs. DeBose is a powerful figure in the recruiting world, as one Nike grassroots source referred to him as the “man behind the curtain” for how Nike’s successful EYBL was run.
Ayton went on to play at Arizona and become the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft. His time at Arizona was shrouded with controversy. That included an ESPN story that alleged a discussion was caught on FBI wiretaps between coach Sean Miller and middleman Christian Dawkins about a $100,000 payment for Ayton. Miller vehemently denied the story.
This is Avenatti’s 10th tweet that’s referenced college basketball since Monday at 12:16 p.m. Since then, he’s hinted at salacious details emerging about Ayton, Oregon’s Bol Bol, DeBose, Nike, AAU coach Shaun “Ice” Manning and a former UNLV player named Brandon McCoy. He even cryptically tweeted “And Duke” on Tuesday.
Nike declined comment when Yahoo Sports reached out on Wednesday.
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