New Orleans Pelicans rookie forward Zion Williamson will be required to answer questions about whether he or his family accepted improper benefits during his one-year college career at Duke after a Florida court denied his motion to stay the discovery process.
Darren Heitner of the Sports Agent Blog reported the update Tuesday:
In May, Prime Sports Marketing agent Gina Ford filed court documents alleging Williamson and his parents "demanded and received gifts, money and/or other benefits from persons on behalf of Duke University" to influence his college selection of the Blue Devils without citing direct evidence of the claim.
It was a filing related to the case that began in 2019 when Ford alleged Williamson wrongfully terminated an exclusive marketing agreement in order to join the Creative Artists Agency.
The Pelicans star's attorneys filed a response in late May, calling the efforts to secure a discovery process a "fishing expedition" that was "invasive," "burdensome" and "legally irrelevant," per Daniel Wallach of Forbes.
Williamson's lawyers added the discovery request was an attempt to "maximize potential embarrassment and media coverage in an attempt to improperly gain settlement leverage."
The case has been complicated by separate filings, the first in North Carolina and the second in Florida, in 2019. Prime Sports Marketing tried to get the case moved to Florida while dismissing the original case in North Carolina, a move contested by Williamson attorney Jeffery S. Klein last year (via ESPN):
"We hope that today's filings will put an end to Gina Ford's and Prime Sports' efforts to avoid the consequences of their failure to comply with North Carolina laws. The defendants' efforts to file another litigation in Florida is a delaying tactic to avoid answering for their actions in the appropriate jurisdiction and we look forward to having these matters resolved on the merits in North Carolina, where the case clearly belongs."
Williamson committed to Duke in January 2018. He made 33 appearances for the Blue Devils during the 2018-19 college basketball season before declaring for the 2019 NBA draft. The Pelicans selected him with the first overall pick.
The 19-year-old North Carolina native missed the first three months of his rookie season after undergoing knee surgery before making his debut in January. The 2019-20 NBA season has been on hold since March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic.