NBA Rumor: Zion Williamson Lawsuit

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Zion Williamson’s stepfather solicited and accepted a $400,000 payment from a marketing agent in October 2018 prior to his only season at Duke Blue Devils, according to a court motion and sworn affidavit filed by his former marketing representative’s attorneys in federal court on Thursday. Gina Ford’s attorneys say the affidavit and other exhibits show that Williamson was ineligible when he played for the Blue Devils in 2018-19 because his stepfather received impermissible benefits from Slavko Duric, a Canadian marketing agent.


Daniel Wallach: BREAKING: Zion Williamson’s former marketing agent files “newly-discovered evidence” in North Carolina federal lawsuit. New affidavit claims Wiliamson and his stepfather were paid $400K in Oct. 2018 in exchange for granting exclusive marketing rights to another agent.

NBA star Zion Williamson’s attorneys on Monday called his former agent’s allegations he violated NCAA rules at Duke “unsubstantiated conjecture” as they seek relief from a federal judge in their contract dispute. In court documents filed in Greensboro at the U.S. District Court for North Carolina’s Middle District and obtained by the News & Observer, Williamson’s attorneys charge Gina Ford with “an effort to point the finger at Williamson and his family, levying a stream of offensive and baseless insinuations.”

“Rather than defend their conduct,” the court filing stated, “defendants seek to shift the focus with salacious and false rumors from unreliable sources outside the pleadings. Defendants cite Wikipedia articles, Zillow estimates and hearsay ruled inadmissible by other federal judges. They even embrace rank speculation that Duke intentionally violated NCAA regulations by certifying Williamson’s eligibility. Defendants allegations are baseless and, more importantly for purposes of this motion, irrelevant.”

In an attempt to call into question Williamson’s status as a student-athlete, Prime Sports has accused Williamson of accepting improper benefits to attend Duke. In their latest court filing, Williamson’s legal team called those accusations “baseless, but more importantly for purposes of this motion, irrelevant.” Williamson’s lawyers went to argue that the agreement between Williamson and Prime Sports is void due to the Uniform Athletes Agents Act, which requires agents to register with the state while they are in contact with student-athletes.

Attorneys representing a marketing director who is suing Zion Williamson filed a subpoena on Wednesday to “Produce Documents, Information, or Objections or to Permit Inspection of Premises in a Civil Action on the following”: 1. NCAA, LLC R/A Douglas J. Kosek 413 W. Jefferson Blvd. South Bend, IN. 46601 Only problem: the NCAA is in Indianapolis not South Bend, and Doug Kosek is a dentist. I tried to call Dr. Kosek at his office. Kelly, one of his receptionists, called back and said he was seeing patients but was rather amused — and confused — about how her kindly boss, who’s known for his “smile and warm demeanor,” according to the DK Dental website, might get drawn into this whole thing.

Later, co-attorneys Alvin Pittman and Lorenzo Williams called and when told they filed an intent to subpoena to a dentist, Williams responded, “Wow.” At first, Pittman said they had not made an error, insisting that the subpoena went to whoever was listed as the recipient in the office. When told that Kosek, again, is a dentist, Pittman paused and said, “It must be a clerical error. We are unaware of everything that gets done. We don’t do all of the typing. Obviously, this is a mistake we need to look into.” Williams said it can be corrected; when asked about such a grievous error in a case of such magnitude and attention, Pittman replied, “Certainly we understand that. We don’t want to have so much as a typo.”

Attorneys representing a marketing director who is suing Zion Williamson filed a subpoena on Wednesday to “Produce Documents, Information, or Objections or to Permit Inspection of Premises in a Civil Action on the following”: 1. NCAA, LLC R/A Douglas J. Kosek 413 W. Jefferson Blvd. South Bend, IN. 46601 Only problem: the NCAA is in Indianapolis not South Bend, and Doug Kosek is a dentist. I tried to call Dr. Kosek at his office. Kelly, one of his receptionists, called back and said he was seeing patients but was rather amused — and confused — about how her kindly boss, who’s known for his “smile and warm demeanor,” according to the DK Dental website, might get drawn into this whole thing.

Later, co-attorneys Alvin Pittman and Lorenzo Williams called and when told they filed an intent to subpoena to a dentist, Williams responded, “Wow.” At first, Pittman said they had not made an error, insisting that the subpoena went to whoever was listed as the recipient in the office. When told that Kosek, again, is a dentist, Pittman paused and said, “It must be a clerical error. We are unaware of everything that gets done. We don’t do all of the typing. Obviously, this is a mistake we need to look into.” Williams said it can be corrected; when asked about such a grievous error in a case of such magnitude and attention, Pittman replied, “Certainly we understand that. We don’t want to have so much as a typo.”

A Florida appeals court has granted Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson’s motion 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. The order Wednesday shifts the focus to a separate but related case between the same litigants in federal court in North Carolina. The Florida lawsuit, filed last summer by Prime Sports Marketing and company president Gina Ford, accused Williamson and the agency now representing him of breach of contract and seeks $100 million in damages.

Attorneys for Zion Williamson’s former marketing agent are continuing their legal push to examine whether the former Duke All-American accepted improper benefits before playing for the Blue Devils, allegations the NBA rookie’s attorney said are “baseless.” Prime Sports Marketing and company president Gina Ford last summer in a Florida, accusing Williamson and the agency now representing him of breach of contract. That came after Williamson had a week earlier in North Carolina to terminate a five-year contract with Prime Sports after moving to Creative Artists Agency LLC.

A Florida appeals court has temporarily granted NBA rookie Zion Williamson’s attempt 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. The order Thursday granted Williamson a stay and paused proceedings in the lawsuit from Prime Sports Marketing and company president Gina Ford, whose attorneys must respond within 10 days. That lawsuit filed last summer accused Williamson and the agency now representing him of breach of contract. Williamson had filed his own lawsuit a week earlier in North Carolina to terminate a five-year contract with Prime Sports after moving to Creative Artists Agency LLC.

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.

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.”

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.

Williamson signed an agreement with Prime Sports in April 2019, days after he declared for the NBA draft. Roughly a month later, Williamson parted ways with Prime Sports and signed with the behemoth Creative Artists Agency. Ford is suing the Pelicans’ rookie on the grounds that he breached their contract. “It’s a very straightforward claim that doesn’t depend on a lot of discovery to be established,” said Daniel Wallach, a legal analyst for The Athletic and the founder of a law firm that focuses on sports gambling. “It really doesn’t look at behavior as much as when the behavior took place. Having contact with a student-athlete is absolutely forbidden when he’s engaged in intercollegiate sports unless the agent is registered.”

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.

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.

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.
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January 15, 2021 | 12:58 pm EST Update