Nike's extortion case against attorney Michael Avennati will move forward to trial, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday. Avenatti is accused ofin exchange for not revealing misconduct allegations against employees of the company.
U.S. District Court Judge Paul G. Gardephe wrote in his ruling that the allegations of "'wrongful' conduct" against Avenatti were supported by adequate facts that "threats of economic and reputational harm to demand millions of dollars" were made, according to ESPN. Gardephe added that the attorney did not have a right to demand millions from Nike "(1) based on confidential information supplied by his client; (2) without his client's knowledge; and (3) to his client's detriment."
Avenatti's allegations were apparently supposed to be revealed back in March 2019 when he teased the uncovering of a major high school and college basketball scandal.
Tmrw at 11 am ET, we will be holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered. This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) March 25, 2019
However, the press conference never happened. Federal prosecutors charged him with extortion and bank and wire fraud less than an hour after he tweeted the announcement. He pled not guilty to both charges. His allegations were that Nike employees funneled tens of thousands of dollars to amateur players, their families and their handlers to get those kids to play for Nike-sponsored teams and college programs.
Avenatti is now trying to provide evidence of these accusations in court. He claims to be aware of 16 calls from former grassroots basketball coach Gary Franklin to Nike employees involving payments to players from Jan. 1, 2019 to March 25, 2019. This is where the central issue is. According to Avenatti, he was just working on behalf of his client, while Nike contends his actions qualified as extortion and were meant to benefit the attorney personally.
Avenatti's trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 21 in New York.