Michael Avenatti, who rose to fame as the lawyer for Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, has been arrested and charged with extorting Nike, embezzlement and fraud.
Wochit, USA TODAY
A series of text message from a Kentucky basketball assistant coach to Nike EYBL director Carlton Debose about the shoe company allegedly funneling money to AAU basketball coaches has been released as part of Michael Avenatti’s motion to dismiss extortion charges against him.
The text message conversation on July 6, 2017, is between Debose and someone identified as “KP” in his phone. Kentucky basketball’s associate head coach is Kenny Payne, and Avenatti’s attorney characterized the text exchange as being with a Kentucky basketball assistant in the motion to dismiss released Thursday.
In the exchange, Debose acknowledges payments to “about 10” Elite Youth Baseball League coaches who are “helping families to the total of about 200K annually.”
KP responded, “Wow,” then asks, “can it come back to hurt you?”
Debose replied, “Not really,” before adding, “It’s a risk but my every day job is a damn risk so I’m used to it now.”
KP responded, “Watch your back bro.”
Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne. (Photo: Mike Weaver/Special to the Courier Journal)
Asked for comment on the latest details, a UK spokesman referred to a statement released by the university Thursday after news of the text message conversation was included in the initial court filing: “We remain committed to compliance in all facets of our athletics department and will continue to work closely with the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference when necessary on any and all matters.”
The text messages are part of exhibits filed Friday by Avenatti supporting his allegations that Nike has engaged in a widespread pay-for-play scheme similar to the one that engulfed Adidas executives as a result of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball.
Among the other messages in the exhibits are outlines of payments to 2018 NBA draft No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton and plans to pay New Albany native Romeo Langford and 2019 NBA draft No. 1 pick Zion Williamson to lure them to Nike-affiliated AAU teams.
Yahoo Sports first reported the details of the messages Friday night.
Avenatti was charged with extortion in March after he allegedly threatened to go public with evidence of the pay-to-play schemes within Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League if the company did not hire him to conduct an internal investigation and pay his client, former EYBL coach Gary Franklin Sr., $1.5 million. Avenatti pleaded not guilty to the charge and filed the motion to dismiss on the basis he was being targeted for “unconstitutionally vindictive and selective reasons.”
Reach Jon Hale at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ.