Zion Williamson Files Protective Order Against Eligibility Inquiry in Lawsuit

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMay 28, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS, MN -  MARCH 8: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans handles the ball against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 8, 2020 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
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New Orleans Pelicans rookie forward Zion Williamson has filed for a protective order against former marketing agent Gina Ford's eligibility inquiry into his status at Duke, per gaming law and sports betting attorney Daniel Wallach of The Athletic:

Daniel Wallach @WALLACHLEGAL

BREAKING: Zion Williamson files for protective order against ‘invasive' and 'irrelevant' discovery requests, seeks court order to block Gina Ford’s inquiry into past eligibility at Duke and whether he received any improper economic benefits. https://t.co/7GM4Hppyp7

Ford has claimed that Williamson received impermissible benefits to attend Duke, per Wallach:

Daniel Wallach @WALLACHLEGAL

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. https://t.co/59gWX5bNKX

Williamson played one year at Duke in 2018-19, winning the Naismith Player of the Year award. The Pels picked him first overall in the 2019 NBA draft.  

The latest legal proceedings stem from Williamson suing Ford's Prime Sports, a Florida-based marketing agency, last June. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported on the legal proceedings:

"According to the suit filed in federal court in North Carolina on Thursday, Williamson signed a marketing deal with Gina Ford and Prime Sports on April 20, five days after he had declared his intention to enter the NBA draft.

"That agreement included a clause that it could not be terminated for five years. Williamson's family told Ford and Prime Sports on May 31 that it was ending the agreement. The agency responded by saying that if Williamson terminated the deal, they would sue for damages in excess of $100 million.

"Williamson has since signed with CAA Sports for his contractual and marketing representation.

"According to the suit, the agreement was unlawful under North Carolina's Uniform Athlete Agents Act because Prime Sports is not certified by the National Basketball Players Association or a registered athlete agent in North Carolina or Florida. Additionally, the agreement failed to contain, as required under the UAAA, a conspicuous notice in boldface type in capital letters informing the athlete that by signing the agreement he was losing his eligibility to compete as a student-athlete."

Ford is countersuing Williamson for "breach of contract, breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealings, fraud and misappropriation" in North Carolina federal court, per Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated. She is seeking $100 million in damages.

She is also filing a request of admissions that Williamson admit he received improper benefits at Duke.

"The admissions are designed to get Williamson to admit that he wasn’t owed protection under the UAAA at the time he signed with Prime Sports," McCann wrote.

Those admissions included claims from Ford that Williamson "knew that his mother and stepfather had demanded and received gifts and economic benefits from persons acting on behalf of" Duke, Nike and Adidas to attend Duke.

Williamson has starred on the NBA stage, averaging 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game during his rookie year.