DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN/AP) — An attorney accused of trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike, tweeted that Duke star Zion Williamson’s mother could have been paid a “bribe” by the shoe company for “bogus consulting services” to get her son to attend Duke.
Michael Avenatti, the attorney known for representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in legal battles against President Donald Trump, is also accused of fraudulently obtaining bank loans and pocketing funds belonging to a client.
Avenatti tweeted this on Friday night:
“About this denial by Coach K the other day relating to payments by Nike…Can you please ask Zion Williamson’s mother – Sharonda Sampson – whether she was paid by @nike for bogus “consulting services” in 2016/17 as part of a Nike bribe to get Zion to go to Duke? Thx.”
Avenatti also sent a tweet referring to “Sharonda Sampson Consulting” and asking Duke to search payments to that company from 2016 to the present.
In a recent court appearance, Avenatti waived his right to a preliminary hearing in federal court in Santa Ana, California. He’s scheduled to be arraigned April 29, but his lawyer says he may seek a waiver so his attorneys can appear on his behalf.
Avenatti was arrested in New York in March and charged with trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike in a separate case.
Duke freshman Zion Williamson, 18, was chosen as The Associated Press men’s college basketball player of the year.
The 6-foot-7, 285-pound Williamson was the runaway choice, claiming 59 of 64 votes from AP Top 25 voters in ballots submitted before the NCAA Tournament in results released Friday.
Duke Vice President and Director of Athletics Kevin White issued a statement Saturday about the issue:
“We are aware of the allegation and, as we would with any compliance matter, are looking into it. Duke is fully committed to compliance with all NCAA rules and regulations. Every student-athlete at Duke is reviewed to ensure their eligibility. With regard to men’s basketball: all recruits and their families are thoroughly vetted by Duke in collaboration with the NCAA through the Eligibility Center’s amateurism certification process.”
Nike issued a statement on Sunday in which the company said it would not respond to Avenatti’s comments.
“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.”