Celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti, freshly indicted on charges of defrauding his most famous client, claims to have more information than he’s released publicly about alleged payments from Nike to college basketball players, including Oregon’s Bol Bol.
However, Avenatti told a university attorney he would only provide that information if Oregon hired an outside firm to investigate his claims, emails between the two parties show.
“I’m not going to participate in your cover-up,” Avenatti wrote to UO general counsel Kevin Reed on May 18. “Retain a real law firm to do a proper investigation as is required. In the meantime, stop trying to deceive the press and the people of Oregon.”
That email was one of several released Friday by the university in response to an open records request.
Avenatti was indicted Wednesday on extortion charges for allegedly trying to extract more than $20 million in blackmail payments from Nike. He also was charged with wire fraud and identity theft in a separate case for allegedly defrauding former client Stormy Daniels of roughly $300,000.
Reed contacted Avenatti in March, seeking information to substantiate his claims that Bol received money from Nike.
“While I am grateful that you are willing to share what you have with the NCAA, I am hoping that your offer to share all the information you claim to have will also extend to the university,” Reed wrote.
Avenatti did not respond to Oregon’s initial request for information, records show. Reed reached out to him again May 16 after Avenatti told Yahoo Sports that only one school, UNLV, had contacted him about his allegations.
“I did not receive the prior email from March,” Avenatti responded. “I am available to meet at a mutually agreeable time in Los Angeles next week or the following week.”
Reed proposed meeting Avenatti in Los Angeles on May 30 or 31. He also informed Avenatti that Oregon did not have an open investigation into the matter but remained interested in collecting credible information about players’ eligibility, echoing the university's public statements.
“I am going to be frank — this smacks of a coverup,” Avenatti wrote. “If you haven’t opened an investigation, why not? What have you opened — a probe, an inquiry? Why the word-smithing?”
“I have taken care not to characterize your conduct,” Reed responded. “I would appreciate it if you would similarly refrain. I am, however, interested in facts.”
Avenatti’s allegations involve players from the California Supreme AAU organization, including Bol, former Arizona star DeAndre Ayton and Brandon McCoy, who considered Oregon before signing with UNLV. Avenatti used the allegations to take public aim at Nike, accusing the company of the same practices that resulted in two Adidas employees being convicted of conspiracy and fraud.
Avenatti released a cache of documents on the Saturday of the Final Four, including invoices and bank records that appeared to show money flowing from Nike through AAU coach Gary Franklin to Melvin McDonald, who is described as a handler for Bol and Ayton.
Reed acknowledged seeing the documents but pressed Avenatti for evidence that the payments were used for improper purposes. NCAA rules prohibit players from accepting payments that would compromise their amateur status.
Bol played nine games for the Ducks before breaking his foot and is expected to be a first-round pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Coach Dana Altman has said he has no reason to believe Avenatti’s claims are accurate.
“What was Bol Bol’s response when you asked him if he had received money from Nike via his handlers?” Avenatti wrote to Reed on May 18. “You did ask him, correct?”
The proposed meeting between Reed and Avenatti appeared to break down when Avenatti demanded that the university hire a third-party investigator to examine his claims. Though he claimed to have more information than he’d released publicly, Avenatti said he’d only share it with “unbiased investigators who are not trying to clear the University and their good friends at Nike.”
Oregon didn’t respond to a request for comment Friday night, including questions about whether the university would consider hiring an outside firm to investigate Avenatti’s allegations.