- Zion Williamson’s former marketing agent, Gina Ford, has accused the Pelicans superstar of accepting illicit benefits from Adidas, Nike, and Duke itself before committing to play for the Blue Devils.
- In recent court filings, Ford’s attorneys have requested that Williamson address the allegations under oath.
- Williamson sued Prime Sports Marketing to terminate his contract on the basis that the company is not officially recognised by the NBA Players Association, North Carolina, or Florida.
- Ford later sued Williamson for breaching his five-year contract with her and Prime Sports Marketing and is seeking $US100 million in damages.
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Zion Williamson has been making news since his high school days, but recent headlines may spell trouble for the New Orleans Pelicans rookie.
The first overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft finds himself in a legal battle with his former marketing agent, Gina Ford, and now Ford has alleged Williamson and his family received benefits from various sources – including shoe brands and universities – to help influence the then-top recruit’s decision regarding where to play college basketball. Accepting gifts, money, and special benefits from those institutions would have compromised Williamson’s NCAA eligibility.
According to recent court filings, attorneys representing Ford and her company, Prime Sports Marketing, requested Williamson admit to allegations that he and his family accepted payments and other forms of compensation from Nike, Adidas, and Duke University before he committed to playing for head coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils.
The attorneys also requested information regarding the former Duke star’s and his parents’ addresses, landlords, and rent payments during his stint in Durham from 2018 to 2019, implying that one of the shoe brands or the university itself may have had a hand in providing them with housing.
NEW: Zion Williamson’s former marketing agent has served requests for admission in their lawsuit asking him to admit that he received “money, benefits, favors or other things of value” to attend Duke University and to wear and/or use Nike and Adidas.
Wow. That escalated quickly. pic.twitter.com/59gWX5bNKX
— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) May 10, 2020
The legal proceedings first began when Williamson sued Ford and Prime Sports Marketing to terminate his contract with the company. The big man’s representation claimed that Prime Sports Marketing is not officially recognised by the NBA Players Association, North Carolina, or Florida, thus granting Williamson cause to scrap the contract and sign instead with Creative Arts Agency. Ford disagreed and later sued Williamson, CAA, and two of its employees for breaching his five-year contract with her and the company. She’s seeking $US100 million in punitive damages, per ESPN.
The current legal battle isn’t the first time Williamson has found himself caught up in a lawsuit involving the NCAA; his name also came up during last year’s highly-publicized federal trial over pay-for-play arrangements involving former Adidas employees and assistant coaches at programs with apparel contracts with the company.
One transcript introduced during those proceedings featured former Kansas assistant Kurtis Townsend and former Adidas consultant Merl Code discussing what benefits they would need to offer Williamson and his family in order to secure his commitment to play for the Jayhawk, per Yahoo Sports.
“Between me and you, you know, he asked about some stuff. You know?” Townsend was quoted as saying. “And I said, ‘Well, we’ll talk about that, you decide.'”
“I know what he’s asking for,” Code replied. “He’s asking for opportunities from an occupational perspective. He’s asking for cash in the pocket and he’s asking for housing for him and his family.”‘
“So I’ve got to just try to work and figure out a way,” Townsend said. “Because if that’s what it takes to get him for 10 months, we’re going to have to do it some way.'”
Similarly, celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti accused Nike of bribing Williamson to commit to Duke last summer. The university found no wrongdoing on the future Player of the Year’s part, but Avenatti was found guilty of attempting to extort the shoe giant.
At the time, Duke spokesman Michael Schoenfeld said the university“conducted a thorough and objective investigation which was directed by individuals outside the athletics department.”
“We found no evidence to support any allegation,” he added. “Zion thrived as both a student and an athlete at Duke, and always conducted himself with integrity and purpose.”
When Insider requested comment on the most recent legal matter from CAA, Williamson’s current agency, a representative from Hiltzik Strategies responded with Schoenfeld’s comment above.
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