Newly released evidence in the federal government's criminal case against attorney Michael Avenatti suggests employees at Nike were paying high-profile college basketball prospects' handlers and families tens of thousands of dollars in under-the-table payments.
In an email on July 30, 2016, Carlton DeBose — the director of Nike's EYBL grassroots basketball division — wrote that bidding for top players reached as much as $100,000.
In the email to Nico Harrison, the company's vice president of North American basketball operations, DeBose suggested Nike was still at a disadvantage against competitors such as Adidas and Under Armour in efforts to secure top prospects.
"It has always been a thankless journey but we are now sitting ducks because our competition and enemies have decided to no longer fight us on our turf but go where we rightfully refuse to go for all of the right reasons," DeBose wrote, according to emails and text messages that were filed Friday at U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. "We have a code. Our enemies don't."
"We are viewed as having too much influence," DeBose continued. "The perception and resulting reality is that we dictate where players go to school. In addition, it is known that we make it hard for agents and runners to attend our events and will escort them off the premises. The same agents and runners are given free reign (sic) at [Adidas] and UA events and reps for both companies frequently broker meetings and deals for families/agents."
In a text message exchange on July 6, 2017, with an assistant coach at the University of Kentucky — identified with only the initials KP in records submitted as exhibits in the federal criminal case — DeBose wrote that he provided money to about 10 Nike EYBL coaches "who are helping families to the total of about 200K annually."