Michael Avenatti Grilled on CNBC Over Nike: ‘Do You Have Any Proof of That?’


Michael Avenatti, who has been charged with attempting to extort Nike, appeared on CNBC this afternoon and faced a grilling over his allegations that Nike has been bribing players and their families.

CNBC’s report on Avenatti’s document dump included a response from Nike saying, “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. Nike will continue its cooperation with the government’s investigation into grassroots basketball and the related extortion case.”

On CNBC this afternoon, Avenatti said he has plenty of proof backing up his allegations, saying there’s “more where that came from.”

“For all of Nike’s puffery,” he said, “they have yet to claim that what I’m saying is untrue or that these documents are bogus, and the reason is they can’t.”

“They can’t because they’re cooperating with an actual federal investigation,” Sara Eisen said. “Why not just let that play out from law enforcement? Why are you going public with all of this?”

“They’re not cooperating with any federal investigation, that’s a bunch of BS,” he responded, before bringing up “their stunt, whereby they had me arrested and charged.”

Wilfred Frost asked, “Why didn’t you just submit your 42 pages to the government, who are carrying out an investigation, which Nike now are talking to the government about, instead of making it all public?”

Avenatti said “we made it clear to Nike from the get-go” that they would have to “come clean one way or the other,” again saying they pulled a “stunt” on him because “they knew they could not control me.”

“If I get hit by a bus today, this story will go on, and Nike’s corruption eventually will be exposed and the world will know what really happened here,” he continued.

“But Michael, why did you ever go to Nike in the first place?” Frost asked. “Why not go to the government straight away, go about it through the proper processes? Did you seek any form of financial gain from this at all?”

“I had a client to represent,’ Aventti said. “And I, like thousands of other plaintiff attorneys around the country, went to Nike to settle a claim on behalf of a client, and there is nothing wrong with that whatsoever.”

Eisen brought up the extortion charges against him and read the quote attributed to him: “If [Nike] wants to have one confidential settlement and we’re done, they can buy that for twenty-two and half million dollars and we’re done… Full confidentiality, we ride off into the sunset.”

“Did you not say that?” she asked.

Avenatti said this in response:

“Full confidentiality relating to the payment that was made, but that ignores all the other context and all the other communications that took place before then, during which we made it clear that we would never––and I want to be really clear about this––we would never agree to anything that would obstruct justice or keep this information out of the hands of governmental investigators… We made that crystal clear from the very beginning communications, and that’s why Nike ultimately went to the government, because they knew they couldn’t control us, period. We were never going to participate in any cover-up whatsoever.”

Eisen followed up, “So you, just to be clear, you are denying that you threatened to release damaging information about Nike and this company if it didn’t meet your demands for $20 million. You’re denying all of these charges?”

“We demanded a settlement on behalf of our client, and we demanded that Nike come clean about this, in connection with an internal investigation that Nike was going to have to incur or undergo in any event,” Avenatti responded.

At one point he said Nike “found religion” when they knew “I was going to out them one way or the other.”

Eisen asked about the specific allegation about Zion Williamson, the player whose mother Avenatti says received payments from Nike during her son’s recruitment. (Duke University says it’s looking into the matter.) She asked, “Do you have any proof of that?”

“I don’t traffic in nonsense and I don’t make claims that can’t be backed up,” Avenatti said. “And I think people are going to be rather shocked when they learn the totality of the evidence of Nike’s corruption and bribery.”

You can watch the full interview above, via CNBC.

[image via screengrab]

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Josh Feldman is a Senior Editor at Mediaite. Email him here: josh@mediaite.com Follow him on Twitter: @feldmaniac