Nike faces Michael Avenatti in major bribery scandal

Matthew Meyer, Staff Reporter

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As the story surrounding Lawyer Michael Avenatti continues to develop, more people are being brought into the spotlight with accusations.

The former legal representative of Stormy Daniels in her court battle against President Donald J. Trump started making headlines once again earlier this month when one of his clients charged him with embezzling from a $1.6 million legal settlement.

According to The Los Angeles Times, along with charges of embezzlement, Avenatti gave a Mississippi bank fictitious personal tax returns to secure more than $4 million in business loans to help pay off the debts of his law firm.

As public scrutiny has continued to rise,  Avenatti has agreed to give up financial control over the firm, and to cooperate with the prosecution. However, according to The Los Angeles Times, Avenatti may be facing charges of contempt of court for failing to produce the firm’s financial records.

Following Avenatti’s arrest, Nike, one of the world’s largest sports corporations, charged him with attempted extortion of upwards of $22.5 million. According to an article from The Business of Fashion,  Avenatti threatened to expose allegations of misconduct from Nike employees unless the apparel company paid him and an unnamed co-conspirator $22.5 million to buy Avenatti’s silence.

Since the original accusation was made,  Avenatti has come out, making claims of his own against Nike, including allegations of bribing athletes. In a recent interview with CBS News,  Avenatti claimed, “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.”

According to CNBC, Avenatti has released 41 documents on Twitter as a form of evidence that Nike has been involved in the bribery of many amateur and collegiate athletes.

These allegations from Avenatti have been aimed towards Duke Basketball star,  Zion Williamson.  According to CBS News,  Avenatti claimed that Nike paid Williamson’s mother for phoney consulting services,  as a way to compensate Williamson for his agreement to engage in a formal contract with Nike upon his entrance to the NBA. Neither Williamson nor Nike has commented on the situation.

Despite all of the allegations being thrown around, some are skeptical that Nike, or any parties involved will face repercussions.

Nonetheless, Nike is still concerned with reassuring its stockholders. In an interview with CNBC, Ken Jewell, a managing partner at Jewell Law, said, “Nike has to protect their image and also protect shareholders and stakeholders from these allegations …  As long as Nike looks the victim of a shakedown, they have the upper hand.”

Ultimately, Nike looks poised to escape the situation without facing any harsh backlash. Since March 25, when Avenatti first broke his accusations, Nike’s stock has not been drastically affected. Share prices dropped less than 1% on March 25, but have since risen 3%.

Editor’s Note: Information from The New York Times, NBC News and CNBC was used in this report.