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Duke Launches Investigation into Avenatti Claim That Nike Paid Zion's Mother

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Michael Avenatti, a man uniquely adept at angering both sides of the American political aisle, accused Nike and Duke University of conspiring with the mother of Duke basketball standout Zion Williamson in what would, if the allegations are true, be a massive pay-for-play scandal even by the impressive standards of NCAA corruption on Friday.

It seems Duke’s own compliance department has launched an internal investigation to determine the veracity of Avenatti’s wild claims.

Duke athletic director Kevin White issued a statement through multiple media outlets, including ESPN, announcing the school’s initiative.

“We are aware of the allegation and, as we would with any compliance matter, are looking into it. Duke is fully committed to compliance with all NCAA rules and regulations,” White wrote. “Every student athlete at Duke is reviewed to ensure their eligibility. With regard to men’s basketball: all recruits and their families are thoroughly vetted by Duke in collaboration with the NCAA through the Eligibility Center’s amateurism certification process.”

Nike, meanwhile, said that the company “firmly believes in ethical and fair play, both in business and sports and won’t be commenting further beyond our statement.”

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As CNBC pointed out, Avenatti’s under indictment for wire fraud, bank fraud, and extortion for threatening to expose alleged crimes that Nike committed if they didn’t pay him $25 million.

Avenatti went right after Nike executive Cameron DuBose on Twitter. Depending on your perspective, he either made good on a threat or delivered a signed, sealed confession to the court for that extortion claim.

Avenatti has set his Twitter avatar as a picture of himself sitting in the corner of a boxing ring at New York’s Gleason’s Gym, looking for any fight he can take on after his former client, adult film actress Stormy Daniels, had a publicized falling out with Avenatti over a high-profile public case involving alleged hush money payments from President Donald Trump.

Do you believe any of Avenatti's claims?
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As for Williamson’s mother, Sharonda Sampson, Avenatti took a curious tone in asking Duke to look into his allegations involving Sampson accepting bogus “consulting” payments from the shoe company.

Parsing his sentence, one gets the sense that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski denied some wild out-of-left-field accusations, Avenatti didn’t have a smoking gun and now he’s asking Duke to do his legwork for him.

And with his statement to media, Kevin White also seems to be calling Avenatti’s bluff.

To be fair, it’s certainly possible that Avenatti may actually have something, in which case Duke’s investigators will have some explaining to do not only to the NCAA but possibly also to the federal government as well.

Of course, Duke’s investigators could look into it, find nothing and issue a public statement to that effect.

Will Avenatti double down if that happens? Will he insist that there’s lying or a cover-up or whatever else he can do to keep his name in the news?

Who knows. Maybe he’ll be too busy rotting in a prison cell if there’s any merit to that extortion case to say anything publicly in the media.

Bottom line, Duke appears to be taking the accusations seriously enough to warrant at least looking into them. It remains to be seen whether they’re just humoring a madman or whether there’s something they’ll actually find.

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Boston born and raised, Fox has been writing about sports since 2011. He covered ESPN Friday Night Fights shows for The Boxing Tribune before shifting focus and launching Pace and Space, the home of "Smart NBA Talk for Smart NBA Fans", in 2015. He can often be found advocating for various NBA teams to pack up and move to his adopted hometown of Seattle.
Boston born and raised, Fox has been writing about sports since 2011. He covered ESPN Friday Night Fights shows for The Boxing Tribune before shifting focus and launching Pace and Space, the home of "Smart NBA Talk for Smart NBA Fans", in 2015. He can often be found advocating for various NBA teams to pack up and move to his adopted hometown of Seattle.
Birthplace
Boston, Massachusetts
Education
Bachelor of Science in Accounting from University of Nevada-Reno
Location
Seattle, Washington
Languages Spoken
English
Topics of Expertise
Sports




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