Woman accused by Jordan files countersuit
By Liam Ford
Tribune staff reporter
Published November 19, 2002, 4:05 PM CST
The woman accused of extortion by Michael Jordan filed a counterclaim today saying he offered her $5 million to keep quiet about their relationship.
Karla Knafel asked the court to force Jordan to pay her the money because he was in breach of contract. Jordan, speaking through his lawyer, said the suit was “full of lies.”
In her suit, Knafel, now 39, denied she tried to extort $5 million from Jordan, and said that was the sum he promised her in the spring of 1991, to be paid upon his retirement from basketball. In exchange, the suit states, the woman promised to keep silent about a pregnancy and not pursue a paternity suit.
For the affair to have been made public at the time, her attorneys contend, could have embarrassed Jordan and undermined any product endorsement deals he had pending. Jordan and his wife, Juanita, were married in September 1989.
Though Knafel at one time believed she was pregnant with Jordan’s child, she is not contending that in her suit filed today, her attorney, Michael Hannafan, said at a news conference in his Loop offices.
“I will tell you that the alleged claim of extortion by Michael Jordan and his lawyers is nothing but baloney,’’ Hannafan added.
The suit states that Knafel and Jordan carried on a sexual relationship from 1989 to 1991 in Chicago, Indianapolis and Phoenix, and that it was Jordan who pursued the woman. Knafel discovered she was pregnant several weeks after a November 1990 sexual encounter with the basketball star.
Hannafan said Jordan still owed the woman the $5 million he allegedly promised her. Knafel was not at the news conference.
In comments to the Associated Press, Jordan’s attorney, Frederick Sperling, said, “Michael Jordan has authorized me to state that the papers Karla Knafel filed with the court today are full of lies. Any allegation that Michael Jordan is the father of any of Karla Knafel’s children is completely untrue, and she and her lawyers know it.
"The untrue allegations about his wife and marriage are particularly hurtful and malicious," Sperling said. "Michael Jordan will try this case in court, not through the media."
In a lawsuit filed Oct. 23 in Chicago, Jordan accused Knafel of trying to extort $5 million in exchange for her silence about their past relationship. Jordan admitted in the suit that the two had a relationship “more than a decade ago” and said he had previously paid Knafel $250,000 when she threatened to go public. Jordan’s lawsuit did not say anything more about the relationship, how long it lasted or whether Jordan was married at the time.
Juanita Jordan filed for divorce in January 2002. Just 31 days later, the Jordans withdrew their divorce case and announced they were attempting reconciliation.