A Florida judge on Tuesday ruled that lawyers represent…

A Florida judge on Tuesday ruled that lawyers representing a marketing agent in a lawsuit against Zion Williamson can proceed with discovery regarding the eligibility of the former Duke star. The decision is the latest step in what is proving to be a contentious case between Williamson and Gina Ford, a Florida-based marketing rep who says the top pick of last year’s NBA Draft reneged on a signed deal that engaged Ford to handle future endorsement deals. Ford is merely seeking financial damages, but the case could have even bigger implications for Duke, as part of her defense is that Williamson received impermissible benefits during his one season with the Blue Devils.

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During Monday’s Zoom hearings, the two sides argued the merits of exploring Williamson’s eligibility. Jeffrey Klein, representing Williamson, dismissed Ford’s claim as “fanciful,’’ while Ford’s attorney Willie Gary accused Williamson of trying to evade the truth. “If this complaint was so frivolous and if they had nothing to hide, your honor, why not let this man give a deposition? We’ve adjusted our schedules. We gave them their opportunity to give us dates for it. They gave us dates, and now they want to back out on them.” Gray later added, “They are trying to duck and dodge being put on the stand, raising your right hand and telling the truth.’’
Attorneys for NBA rookie Zion Williamson seek to block his former marketing agent’s effort to have the ex-Duke star answer questions about whether he received improper benefits before playing for the Blue Devils. In a Florida court filing last week, Williamson’s attorneys say those questions are “nothing more than a fishing expedition aimed at tarnishing Williamson’s reputation” and designed to “maximize potential embarrassment and media coverage in an attempt to improperly gain settlement leverage.”
Gina Ford’s attorneys had submitted questions this month asking whether the New Orleans Pelicans rookie or anyone on his behalf sought or accepted “money, benefits, favors or things of value” to sign with Duke. Those filings -- offering no evidence of wrongdoing by Williamson or his family -- sought answers within 30 days to establish facts under oath in the pretrial discovery process.
In North Carolina, agents who wish to represent athletes in marketing or contract negotiations are required to register with the state before they make contact with anyone who has amateur status. It is a relatively cheap and easy process. It costs $200 to submit an application, a paltry sum for those who are getting a cut of six- and seven-figure deals. The legal drama between Zion Williamson and Gina Ford, a marketing representative for Prime Sports, has brought this law, which is called the Uniform Athlete Agents Act, into focus.
Earlier this week, lawyers for Williamson asked a federal judge in North Carolina to declare an agreement between the former Duke star and Prime Sports void because Ford was not registered as an agent in the state while she was in contact with Williamson’s camp. Court documents show Ford was texting with Williamson’s mother, Sharonda Sampson, as early as January 2019, while Williamson was involved in ACC play.
In a motion filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Williamson's attorneys restated their argument that the NBA star's marketing agreement wasn't valid because Ford wasn't a registered agent in North Carolina, and the contract didn't include a warning that was required by a state law designed to protect amateur athletes from unscrupulous agents.
Darren Heitner: Zion Williamson has filed a motion for partial judgment on the pleadings in his federal court litigation against former marketing agents. Focus is on failure to register as an athlete agent & include requisite disclosures under NC's athlete agent law.

Just after declaring for the draft, Williamson signed a contract with Ford, the president of Prime Sports Marketing, to handle his endorsement deals. No one argues that. There is a signed contract, as well as pictures of Ford with Williamson and Krzyzewski during a photoshoot for Slam magazine.
These rather explosive questions factor in because the lawyers argue that if they can prove Williamson was paid before or during his tenure at Duke, he would be ineligible and thereby no longer a student-athlete. “It doesn’t matter when the contract is entered into. If you’re no longer a student-athlete, the rules of the NCAA no longer apply,’’ Ford’s attorney Larry Strauss said. “The nuance is that this does not just apply to him. Any third party that acted as an agent, his parent or handlers, all of their actions can also affect eligibility.’’ Both parties have sought dismissal of the other’s case, but each has been denied.
Zion Williamson's lawsuit with Prime Sports Marketing's Gina Ford, his former agent, has taken an interesting twist. According to court papers published early Sunday afternoon by Wallach Legal, LLC founder and gaming law and sports betting attorney Daniel Wallach, Ford served Williamson with requests for admission that he received impermissible benefits to attend Duke and wear or use Nike or choose an Adidas-sponsored school.
Among the 11 bullet points from 5-15, the documents posted by Wallach shows a list of items alleging that he received "money, benefits, favors or others things of value" to sign with the Blue Devils for the 2018-19 college basketball season and wear or use the aforementioned brands. The served requests name Williamson and his mother and stepfather, Sharonda Sampson and Lee Anderson, and Ford is trying to make him say "yes or no" under oath regarding whether or not he accepted the impermissible benefits.
Storyline: Zion Williamson Lawsuit
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