The college basketball corruption scandal took us for a wild ride on Monday morning.
It started with a tweet.
Michael Avenatti, the former lawyer for Stormy Daniels who has made a name for himself as one of the world’s elite attention-seekers and who may or may not still be running for President in 2020, let loose with the following tweet at 12:16 p.m.:
That sent the college basketball world on fire for roughly 20 minutes.
The biggest schools in college basketball are sponsored by Nike, including the majority of the programs currently in the Sweet 16 — Duke, North Carolina, Oregon, Kentucky, Virginia, Gonzaga, Michigan, Michigan State, LSU.
This had the potential to be massive news, and the buzz lasted for about 14 minutes.
Because, according to NBC’s Joe Valiquette, at 12:30 p.m., Avenatti was arrested in Midtown Manhattan and charged with trying to extort $20 million from Nike by threatening to inflict financial damage on the company by taking a story about crimes committed by Nike public.
According to the complaint that was filed in federal court, Avenatti told Nike’s lawyers over the phone that he was going to “take ten billion dollars off your client’s market cap” if they did not agree to pay his client $1.5 million and agree to retain him for an internal investigation that would see Nike pay Avenatti upwards of $20 million. He was released on $300,000 bond.
The client, according to the indictment, was a former AAU coach willing to disclose “evidence that one or more Nike employees had authorized and funded payments to the families of top high school players.” Sources confirmed to NBC Sports that the coach involved is Gary Franklin Sr. of California Supreme, a program that was formerly a part of the EYBL circuit and has produced a number of current NBA and former college basketball players, including Deandre Ayton, De’Anthony Melton, Bol Bol and Shareef O’Neal, among many others.
Avenatti was caught on calls recorded by the FBI making these threats. He was also charged in Los Angeles with embezzling a client’s money in order to fund his coffee business and with defrauding a bank for millions in loans by using fake tax returns on Monday.