Zion Williamson Suing to End Agreement with Marketing Firm Ahead of NBA Draft

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured Columnist

Duke forward Zion Williamson on the court warming up before the start of a NCAA men's East Regional final college basketball game against Michigan State in Washington, Sunday, March 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Projected No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson is suing marketing firm Prime Sports on the grounds of an unlawful agreement, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski

Williamson's attorney, Jeffrey S. Klein, issued a statement on the lawsuit, per Wojnarowski:

"Prime Sports Marketing's actions towards Mr. Williamson blatantly violated the North Carolina statute specifically designed to protect student athletes. Mr. Williamson properly exercised his rights under the law to void his business dealings with Prime Sports Marketing. Prime Sports Marketing's continued threats against Mr. Williamson made necessary the filing of this lawsuit."

Wojnarowski tweeted out a link to the full lawsuit.

Williamson signed with the company on April 20, less than one week after he declared for the 2019 NBA draft. The former Duke star then attempted to terminate the contract just more than a month later on May 31. 

The contract contained a clause that prohibited termination within the first five years of the deal, and according to Wojnarowski, Prime Sports has responded to Williamson's lawsuit by threatening to sue him for $100 million-plus in damages. 

The NBA prospect's lawsuit argues the contract is not lawful in North Carolina because Prime Sports—a Florida-based company—is not certified by the National Basketball Players Association nor is it a registered athlete agent in North Carolina or Florida. 

The agency also allegedly failed to include proper notice of Williamson's loss of eligibility as a student-athlete.

Prime Sports responded to Williamson's lawsuit in a press released provided to Bleacher Report on Friday: 

"Prime Sports Marketing, LLC and President Ford maintain that a valid and enforceable contract exists between Prime Sports Marketing, LLC and Zion Williamson which, by its terms and conditions, is governed by the laws of the State of Florida. Zion Williamson, who declared eligible for the NBA draft on or about April 15, 2019, knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily entered into contract on April 20, 2019 with Prime Sports Marketing, LLC whose terms provide that Prime Sports Marketing, LLC shall serve as his exclusive Global marketing/branding/endorsement consultant for a term of five (5) years."

Prime Sports also said Creative Artists Agency was aware of its preexisting agreement with Williamson when the 18-year-old changed representation: 

"The circumstances indicate that Creative Artists Agency (CAA) was aware of the valid contract between Zion Williamson and Prime Sports Marketing, LLC when CAA met with Zion Williamson and announced to the world that it had signed him to an exclusive marketing contract. It is believed that the evidence in a court of law will prove that the collective actions of CAA and Zion Williamson are willful, intentional and unlawful."

Williamson is arguably the most-hyped prospect in recent memory, with the 2019 NBA draft lottery being billed as the Zion sweepstakes. The 6'7", 285-pound forward averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks in his lone season with the Blue Devils.

The lawsuit comes as Williamson prepares for the draft, which will be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on June 20. The New Orleans Pelicans hold the No. 1 overall pick.