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Lawyer Avenatti maintains innocence in Nike case, postpones press conference

Lawyer Michael Avenatti tweeted March 26 that he "never attempted to extort" Nike Inc., adding that "when the evidence is disclosed, the public will learn the truth about Nike's crime [and] cover-up." He also postponed a press conference scheduled for March 26 to discuss his claims against the company.

Avenatti was arrested and charged March 25 for allegedly attempting to extort over $20 million from the footwear and sports gear retailer. According to a criminal complaint from the U.S. Department of Justice, Avenatti told Nike that if the company did not pay $1.5 million to his client, he would reveal evidence in a press conference that the company's employees made illicit payments to families of high school student-athletes.

Avenatti also allegedly demanded Nike pay him and an unidentified co-conspirator $15 million to $25 million to conduct an "internal investigation" on the matter.

In another Twitter post March 26, the lawyer said the footwear retailer was attempting to divert attention from its own crimes.

Nike did not immediately respond to S&P Global Market Intelligence's request for comment on Avenatti's tweets.

"Contrary to Nike's claims yesterday, they have not been cooperating with investigators for over a year. Unless you count lying in response to subpoenas and withholding documents as 'cooperating,'" Avenatti tweeted.

In one of his tweets, Avenatti linked to a CBS News report from Sept. 28, 2017, about federal investigators serving a subpoena to Nike's grassroots basketball division, the Elite Youth Basketball League, as part of a corruption probe.

Before his arrest, Avenatti tweeted that he would be holding a press conference March 26 to discuss his claims against Nike. He told the Washington Examiner that he has postponed his press conference to a later date yet to be determined. He expects the press conference to happen later this week, he told the paper. S&P Global Market Intelligence could not reach Avenatti. The number listed on his firm's website was out service and his firm did not respond to an email requesting comment.

In October 2018, Jim Gatto, Adidas AG's director of global sports marketing, was found guilty in an alleged basketball bribery scheme, in which he paid recruits' families to lure the players to Adidas-sponsored universities. Former Adidas consultant Merl Code and sports agent Christian Dawkins were also convicted.