Duke

Zion Williamson, family approached by agent during Duke basketball season, lawsuit says

The sports agent who initially signed Zion Williamson in April began contacting the Duke All-American’s family in early January while the college basketball season was ongoing, according to documents filed in a Greensboro federal court Wednesday.

Williamson’s lawyers included that detail in an amended complaint as part of his lawsuit against Gina Ford and her Florida-based agency, Prime Sports Marketing.

The new court filing, obtained by The News & Observer, details Ford’s dealings with Williamson and his family.

According to Wednesday’s filing, “Defendants sent numerous text messages to Mr. Williamson‘s family, approached Mr. Williamson’s family before and after Duke basketball games (despite requests to refrain from doing so), and physically traveled to Durham, North Carolina on approximately four separate occasions during the first few months of 2019 to meet with Mr. Williamson and/or his family. At least two of these meetings occurred during the 2018-2019 collegiate regular basketball season.”

NCAA rules don’t prohibit contact with agents, but an athlete would be declared ineligible by signing with an agent or receiving money, goods or services from an agent.

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Duke basketball officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Williamson signed Ford to represent him on April 20, five days after he used his Instagram account to publicly declare his intention to enter the 2019 NBA draft. Duke’s season ended March 31 with a 68-67 NCAA tournament loss to Michigan State.

But Ford, Williamson claimed in his lawsuit, violated four areas of North Carolina’s Uniform Athlete Agents Act, including not being registered as an agent with Secretary of State Elaine Marshall’s office.

That voids his agreement with her, Williamson’s lawyers contend.

On May 30, Williamson decided he wanted CAA Sports to represent him. He emailed Ford seeking to end his relationship with her.

But Ford claimed Williamson owes Prime Sports a $100 million fee for breaking his contract. Williamson responded with his lawsuit seeking to void the contract. Ford countersued Williamson in a Florida court.

The News & Observer emailed Marshall’s office Monday to see if Ford faces any criminal charges for violating the state’s agent laws. No response has been received.

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An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.
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