Avenatti was arrested Monday on accusations that he tried to shake down Nike by alleging the company illegally paid high school athletes and their families to get them to attend certain colleges; he has since been released on $300,000 bond.
Avenatti allegedly told Nike that he would disclose the supposed payments, unless they paid his client $1.5 million and retained him as a lawyer to do an internal investigation for $15 to $20 million.
Along with calling the extortion allegations “absurd,” Avenatti claimed that his interactions with Nike had been framed inaccurately. “In fact, from the very first moment that we had any meeting with Nike, we made it clear that under no circumstances would we participate in anything that did not require full disclosure to investigators and the federal government.”
Avenatti added, “Nike knew, from the very first moment that I had any contact with Nike, that I was insisting that the truth about what Nike had done be disclosed to federal prosecutors and investigators.” The truth, he said, was that “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 hopefully to the NBA so they can sign a shoe deal with Nike.”
Along with the extortion charges that were filed in New York, prosecutors in Los Angeles also charged Avenatti with wire and bank fraud over alleged attempts to pay off debts by embezzling his clients’ money. Avenatti also denied those charges on CBS, noting that his accuser is on felony probation for “multiple accounts of obtaining money under false pretenses.”
Avenatti admitted that he’s nervous that a guilty conviction in both cases could land him in prison for decades, if not the rest of his life. “I am nervous. I’m concerned. I’m scared,” Avenatti said, then added, “I am confident because I believe the facts are on my side.”