Even before Michael Avenatti was arrested for allegedly trying to extort Nike out of millions of dollars, the accusations he promised to level against the apparel giant were as comical as his hopes of one day becoming the president of the United States.
Avenatti, the lawyer most famous for representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in her hush money suit against President Donald Trump, tweeted Monday morning that he would soon expose a major scandal that “reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.”
Thanks to the federal complaint, which prosecutors from the Southern District of New York released following Avenatti’s arrest less than an hour after he tweeted, we know roughly what those allegations involved: threatening to release information that would “damage the company’s reputation” if Nike’s lawyers didn’t pay Avenatti to stay quiet.
What was this damaging evidence? According to the complaint, Avenatti was going to show the world that Nike had engaged in the scandalous practice of paying talented, marketable athletes to wear its shoes.
This, in a sane world, wouldn’t be damaging at all: Nike routinely pays athletes, including some of the biggest superstars in sports, millions of dollars to wear as many Swooshes as possible. It is only in the asinine world of college sports that engaging in such a transaction could damage anyone, or make someone like Avenatti think it might.
Ironically, though, the same prosecutors now going after Avenatti have spent the last two years propping up that insane world by prosecuting people who made payments to college kids in exchange for the labor that makes the NCAA a billion-dollar enterprise.
As U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman noted in a Monday news conference, the accusations Avenatti allegedly wanted to level against Nike mirrored those Berman’s own office leveled against Adidas and others in 2017, when the Southern District of New York charged more than 10 people ― including two Adidas executives ― with fraud for paying bribes to get top college basketball recruits to attend certain schools.
Those criminal prosecutions are apparently what made Avenatti think the info he supposedly had on Nike was “damaging.” In effect, the feds’ investigation into college basketball “corruption” gave Avenatti the misguided idea to allegedly try to extort Nike over it.
Avenatti all but admitted this on Twitter last week:
The Department of Justice claims it’s trying to clean up college basketball, but it’s only made itself a defender of a status quo in which the NCAA’s refusal to pay marketable, valuable athletes what they are worth has forced the payments under the table instead. This is most damaging not for shoe company executives or the sport itself, but for the athletes the Department of Justice refuses to defend even though it has the authority to.
Avenatti was released from custody Monday night and told reporters outside the courthouse that he would be “fully exonerated,” The Associated Press reported. According to the AP, he said that he would “never stop fighting the good fight” against powerful corporations. But in following the feds, whose decision to defend the NCAA has only protected the grifters’ paradise that is major college sports, all Avenatti has done is put himself on the wrong side.