A win for Williamson: Appeals court says Zion won’t face questions on improper benefits

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Zion Williamson

FILE – In this July 10, 2019 file photo, Zion Williamson, of the Duke University Basketball team, arrives at the ESPY Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Duke says an investigation has found no evidence that Williamson received improper benefits. School spokesman Michael Schoenfeld said in a statement Saturday, Sept. 7, that a “thorough and objective” probe led by investigators outside the athletic department found “no evidence to support any allegation” that would have jeopardized Williamson’s eligibility. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Zion Williamson doesn’t have to answer questions under oath in Florida about any possible improper benefits related to the NBA rookie’s single season at Duke.

The Third District Court of Appeal in Florida granted his attorneys’ motion for a stay of the lawsuit filed in that state by his former sports marketing agent.

Jeffrey Klein, one of Williamson’s attorneys, did not immediately return a message seeking comment from CBS 17 News on Thursday, a day after the court issued its decision in a three-sentence statement.

Larry Strauss, one of the team of attorneys representing marketing agent Gina Ford and her firm Prime Sports Marketing, also did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Ford and Prime Sports sued the NBA rookie last year in a Florida court for breach of contract and is seeking $100 million in damages.

As part of the discovery process in that lawsuit, Prime Sports and Ford had sought in court filings last month to ask Williamson under oath whether the 2019 national college player of the year or his family members demanded or received gifts, money or benefits to attend Duke.

Williamson’s attorneys appealed after a Florida judge denied their motion to block that request,, and 

Williamson and Ford have been tied up in competing lawsuits over the past year, with the suit by Ford and Prime Sports coming shortly before the New Orleans Pelicans picked Williamson No. 1 overall in the 2019 NBA draft and after he sued in federal court in North Carolina to get out of the contract he signed upon leaving Duke, saying Ford violated the state’s sports agent law because neither she nor the firm were registered in North Carolina.

Williamson’s attorneys have filed a motion in that lawsuit for partial judgment. 

The lawyers for the agency have asked the judge in Greensboro for permission to ask questions under oath about the finances and housing of Williamson’s parents during his one season with the Blue Devils, and have raised the possibility of having Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski sit for a deposition.

Williamson’s college eligibility could be a pivotal issue because the North Carolina Uniform Athlete Agents Act defines a student-athlete as someone who is eligible to engage in an intercollegiate sport. The lawyers for Ford and Prime Sports say if Williamson is determined to have been ineligible, the act would not apply to him.

Duke officials have consistently declined to comment, saying the school is not a party to either lawsuit, instead pointing to a statement from January in which it said a review found no eligibility concerns with Williamson.

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