Michael Avenatti, the celebrity lawyer who gained notoriety over the last year for his involvement in adult film actress Stormy Daniels’ lawsuit against Donald Trump, has spent his time recently alleging Nike of corruption. Avenatti has used his Twitter account to go after the company, along with college basketball players who suited up for Nike-sponsored programs, like Deandre Ayton and Bol Bol.
The latest target for Avenatti: Duke and its superstar freshman, Zion Williamson. In a series of tweets, Avenatti alleged that Nike arranged for Williamson’s mother, Sharonda Sampson, to get paid for “consulting services.” In exchange, the AP Player of the Year was allegedly pushed to Durham.
It’s not the first time Avenatti has tweeted about the program, as he ominously posted “And Duke…” to his Twitter account in March. When asked about the tweet, Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said “there’s nothing there.” As for the latest allegations, Duke athletic director Kevin White told The Chronicle that it is being investigated.
“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,” White wrote. “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.”
Avenatti’s motives for taking on Nike like this, along with whether this turns into an adidas-like scandal, both remain to be seen. Regardless, if anything that happened broke NCAA rules or federal laws, kudos to Duke and/or Nike for what was inarguably a smart business decision by doing the always-sinister act of compensating a teenager for their services in generating billions of dollars in revenue.