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Nike executive gave go-ahead on payments to Zion Williamson, per Avenatti filing

A motion was filled on Wednesday by the attorneys of Michael Avenatti that alleges that a Nike employee approved of payments, in 2017, to then prep basketball stars Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford.

According to the motion filed in U.S. District Court in New York, Williamson was offered at least $35,000, while the number for Langford sat at $20,000. The motion claims that these details were discovered through a series of text messages and emails.

Of course, as Dan Wetzel from Yahoo! states, there’s no evidence that these payments were made to Williamson or Langford — or their familes.

Back in March, Avenatti was arrest and charged with attempting to extort money (~$25 million) from Nike. Avenatti, who threatened to expose an improper benefit system funneling money to players through the EYBL circuit, pleaded not guilty to those charges brought on by federal investigators.

Avenatti’s lawyers asked a federal judge to dismiss the charges.

On Wednesday night, Avenatti did his usual thing — taking to social media in an effort to clear his name and help further his case. (You know, like all good lawyers do.) In some of those posts, including this exchange with The Chronicle, Duke’s student paper, Avenatti claimed that the Nike payments were made in an effort to push Williamson to Duke.

In a text message to ESPN on Wednesday, Avenatti claimed that he was a target: “I was targeted. Nike, Zion, Duke and many others have a lot of explaining to do.”

Williamson did attend Duke, where he emerged as an all-world superstar, a generational talent and the 2019 ACC Player of the Year. In June of this year, he was selected No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft by the New Orleans Pelicans. (Langford played for one season at Indiana; he was the 14th overall selection in the 2019 draft.)

Last month, Williamson signed a record-setting rookie shoe contract with Jordan Brand, a production of Nike. While at Duke this season, Williamson wore around 10 different Nike shoe models, including the signature Paul George sneakers he wore during his injury in the UNC game.

 

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