College athletics are often mired in controversy. Despite march madness’ ongoing alore, there is no escaping the fact that the NCAA and specifically college basketball have deeply-seeded issues. Ever since the FBI began it’s probe a little over a year ago, the situation has continued to worsen.
On March 25, American attorney Michael Avenetti was arrested on charges of extortion as well as embezzlement. Perhaps best known for being Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Avenatti is accused of attempting to extort over $20 million from the athletic company Nike. Allegedly, Avenatti and a co-conspirator attempted to “shake-down” Nike.
According to reports, Avenatti demanded the money under threats of exposing payments by Nike to the families of top recruits. Reminiscent of the Adidas scandal from 2017, if Nike was to be caught doing such a thing the consequences would be quite severe as it would take away the ‘“amateur” status of the student athletes whose families are receiving payment.
For context, Will Wade, head coach of LSU, was placed on indefinite suspension and will likely lose his job due to allegations of discussing a cash payment to recruit over the phone. Avenatti’s alleged threats are not to be taken with a grain of salt.
According to the allegations, Avenetti timed his extortion to line up with the NCAA Tournament as well as Nike’s quarterly earnings call. On March 21, Avenetti retweeted a link to a news story about the ongoing scandal with the caption “something tells me we have not reached the end of scandal, it is likely far broader than imagined.” Investigators appear to view the tweet as a threat against the apparel empire.
As college athletics become increasingly profitable and popular, the concept of amateurism has come under fire. For those who don’t know, college athletes are considered amateurs. Their status is based on the fact that the athletes are not compensated for their services by the league that they play in. They aren’t allowed to monetize their own names, either.
Seeing that the Carolinian is a college publication, anyone reading this likely knows how taxing being a student is both financially and mentally. College athletes live under a set of very draconian rules that severely limit their ability to monetize their skills.
Still, college athletics provide educational opportunities that may not have been available otherwise. A full scholarship is a life-changing opportunity for anyone. However, seeing that the NCAA recently reported a $1.1 billion revenue in 2017, a full scholarship is simply not reflective of some players’ value.
Unfortunately, a number of third parties have exploited the system and taken advantage of this very sensitive situation. Athletic companies, agents and countless other figures use student athletes and their financial struggles for their own selfish purposes. They make lavish promises to athletes and make money for themselves under the guise of assisting the players who are the ones who face severe consequences when exposed.
If the allegations made against Avenatti are true, then he too belongs to the aforementioned class and deserves to be punished to the full extent of the law. After talking with Nike, the company reported Avenatii to the U.S. Attorney’s Office who reportedly then recorded all of the discussions that took place between Avenatti and Nike. Avenatti was then arrested shorty after his tweet and was promptly released after posting a $300,000 bail.
Following his release from jail, Avenatti told reporters that he was confident that he would be fully exonerated of all charges including the unrelated wire fraud charges he is facing in California. He also told reporters that he would “never stop fighting the good fight”.
U.S. Attorney Geoffery Berman issued a response, saying that, “Avenatti’s conduct had nothing to do with valid advocacy on behalf of a client or any other kind of legitimate legal work. Instead, Avenatti used illegal and extortionate threats for the purpose of obtaining in payments for himself.”
It will be interesting to see where the investigation goes next.