Avenatti Doubles Down, Says Nike Targeted Him to Cover ‘Crimes’

By Erik Larson | March 26, 2019

California lawyer Michael Avenatti brushed aside accusations by federal prosecutors that he tried to extort millions of dollars from Nike Inc., tweeting to thank supporters after he was released on bail and lobbing fresh accusations at the world’s biggest sports apparel and footwear company.

Michael Avenatti, center, leaves court in New York on Monday. Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg

The lawyer doubled down on his claim that there was something amiss at Nike, which Avenatti claimed had targeted him “to divert attention from their own crimes.” Nike said Monday it’s been cooperating with investigators into corruption in NCAA basketball.

“Contrary to Nike’s claims yesterday, they have NOT been cooperating with investigators for over a year. Unless you count lying in response to subpoenas and withholding documents as ‘cooperating,'” Avenatti said in another tweet Tuesday morning.

It was his first series of tweets since Monday morning, when he announced he would hold a press conference to unveil a case he claimed would show how “criminal conduct reached the highest levels of Nike.” He was arrested shortly afterward as he arrived at the offices of Nike’s lawyers, Boies Schiller Flexner LLP.

“Nike’s attempt at diversion and cover-up will fail miserably once prosecutors realize they have been played by Nike and their lawyers at Boies,” Avenatti said in one of the tweets.

A Nike spokesman declined to comment on Avenatti’s new tweets. Scott Wilson, one of Nike’s attorneys at the law firm in New York, didn’t immediately return a call.

Prosecutors said Avenatti, best known for representing the porn actress Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit against President Donald Trump, told Nike he’d cancel that event in exchange for more than $20 million for him and another lawyer, purportedly to conduct an internal investigation, and his client.

Nike shares declined slightly Monday after Avenatti’s original tweet but eventually leveled off. The stock was up 1.3 percent at 10:12 a.m. in New York.

Nike, based in Beaverton, Oregon, said it reported Avenatti’s contacts to the prosecutors, with whom the company has been cooperating with an investigation into corruption involving college basketball and “firmly believes in ethical and fair play.”

After posting $300,000 bond Monday evening, Avenatti said outside the courthouse that “I am highly confident that when all of the evidence is laid bare in connection with these cases, when it is all known, when due process occurs — that I will be fully exonerated and justice will be done.”

He’ll return to California for another appearance in federal court in Santa Ana, where he was also charged Monday. There he’s accused of stealing a client’s $1.6 million settlement and using it to cover expenses, as well as defrauding a bank to obtain more than $4 million in loans.

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