Zion Williamson seeks to avoid answering questions about improper benefits

Duke

Zion Williamson, of Duke, smiles before the NBA basketball draft Thursday, June 20, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Lawyers for Zion Williamson are asking a judge to block his former marketing agent’s request to have him answer questions about whether he received improper benefits before his only season at Duke.

CBS 17 News on Thursday obtained a document filed last week in a Florida court seeking a stay of the discovery process in a lawsuit filed against Williamson by his former marketing agent. The next hearing in the suit is Tuesday.

His former agent, Gina Ford, and her firm, Prime Sports Marketing, have accused the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and his current agency of breach of contract. 

In a filing earlier this month, lawyers for Ford and Prime Sports filed a first request for admissions that asks Williamson to answer whether he, or his mother or stepfather, demanded or received gifts, money or benefits to attend Duke. The document does not contain any evidence.

One of those lawyers also hinted in an interview with CBS 17 News that he could have Hall of Fame Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski for a deposition.

Williamson’s lawyers countered in a document filed May 22, calling them “invasive and irrelevant requests” and a “fishing expedition” that were “plainly designed to generate publicity.”

They added that the requests “are designed to harass and are not calculated to lead to discovery of relevant evidence” and that any benefit “is vastly outweighed by the clear, intended harm to Williamson.”

A spokesman for Jeffrey Klein, one of the attorneys who represents Williamson, declined further comment to CBS 17 News. Lorenzo Williams or Stephen Drummond, who represent Ford and Prime Sports, did not return requests for comment.

Officials at Duke have declined comment because the school is not a party to either lawsuit.

Daniel Wallach, an attorney and sports law analyst who has been studying the separate lawsuits filed by both sides, told CBS 17 News that “there has to be some tether or connection between the discovery that they’re seeking and the claims that are at issue in the lawsuit.

“There has to be relevance to the matter at hand, and Zion is arguing that this matter is irrelevant to the issue of his contractual relationship with Gina Ford,” Wallach said.

Williamson has been tied up in dueling lawsuits with Ford and her company for roughly an entire year, ever since shortly after he left Duke early for the NBA.

Williamson signed a marketing deal with Prime Sports last April, five days after announcing his decision to enter the NBA draft.

He then signed with Creative Artists Agency last May and filed a lawsuit last June in U.S. District Court in Greensboro seeking to terminate that contract and accusing the agency of violating the state’s sports agent law, saying Ford is not registered as an agent in the state as required by law.

Later that month, Ford and Prime Sports sued Williamson in a Florida court for $100 million in punitive damages, saying the former college player of the year breached his contract.

Williamson’s college eligibility could become an issue in the lawsuit 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 could argue that if Williamson is determined to have been ineligible, the act would not be applicable to him.

This recent court filing is part of that lawsuit.

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