The independent news organization of Duke University

University finds no wrongdoing involving Zion Williamson despite Michael Avenatti’s claims

<p>Zion Williamson has been accused by lawyer Michael Avenatti of accepting payments from Nike officials.</p>

Zion Williamson has been accused by lawyer Michael Avenatti of accepting payments from Nike officials.

In the latest installment of the Michael Avenatti and Zion Williamson drama, Duke University seemingly shut the door on Avenatti, as its months-long investigation culminated with no evidence to support the lawyer's claims that Williamson or his family compromised his NCAA eligibility by accepting payments from Nike officials.

Avenatti, a lawyer who rose to fame by representing porn star Stormy Daniels against President Donald Trump and is now embroiled in legal troubles of his own, initially alleged in April that Nike paid Williamson's mother, Sharona Samspon, for consulting services. In August, he alleged in court filings that Nike officials texted about paying Williamson, the 2018-19 National Player of the Year for Duke's men's basketball team.

Five months after the university announced that it was "looking into" the allegations, it finally reached a conclusion Friday.

“As soon as Duke was made aware of any allegation that might have affected Zion Williamson’s eligibility, we conducted a thorough and objective investigation which was directed by individuals outside the athletics department," Michael Schoenfeld, Duke's vice president for public affairs and government relations wrote in an email to The Chronicle. "We found no evidence to support any allegation.  Zion thrived as both a student and an athlete at Duke, and always conducted himself with integrity and purpose.”

Despite the finality of Duke's investigation, Avenatti maintains that his intel is correct.

“I never heard from anyone associated with Duke in connection with my allegations or any investigation,” Avenatti told The News & Observer Friday. “I was never asked a single question. I was never asked what information or documents that I was aware of.”

The first pick in June's NBA Draft, Williamson is slated to begin his NBA career when his New Orleans Pelicans open the 2019-20 season Oct. 22, while Avenatti is scheduled to go on trial Nov. 12 for Nike's extortion case against him.

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