Michael Avenatti, the lawyer best known for representing porn star Stormy Daniels in her fight against President Donald Trump, is accused by federal prosecutors of playing hard ball with Nike.
Prosecutors accused Avenatti of trying to extort millions from Nike, which worked with law enforcement officials to record its executives’ negotiations with the lawyer, according to a complaint unsealed in the South District of New York.
Avenatti approached Nike and said he had evidence from a client — a coach whose team had previously had a contract with the brand — that Nike employees paid top high school basketball players, presumably to influence what college they would attend, and then sought to conceal those payments.
The lawyer threatened to hold a press conference, damaging Nike just before its earnings update last week and headed into the end of the college basketball season.
According to the complaint, Avenatti told Nike: “You guys know enough now to know you’ve got a serious problem. And it’s worth more in exposure to me to just blow the lid off this thing. A few million dollars doesn’t move the needle for me.”
Avenatti was looking for Nike to pay him a $12 million retainer to perform an internal investigation into the matter as well as a $1.5 million payment for his client.
He offered a confidential settlement for $22.5 million, according to the complaint.