Zion Williamson is suing Prime Sports.
It was announced a few weeks ago that Zion Williamson had signed with CAA, ending the speculation about what sports agency would get to cultivate the marketing and contractual riches that await him in the NBA.
Before that relationship can get off the ground, reports say there is a third-party involved, claiming that Williamson already signed with them on April 20, five days after he declared for the NBA Draft.
According to the suit filed in federal court in North Carolina on Thursday, Williamson signed a marketing deal with Gina Ford and Prime Sports prior to announcing his decision to sign with CAA.
Williamson is predicated to become the No. 1 overall pick to the New Orleans Pelicans next week’s NBA draft.
Williamson is suing to enforce his termination of an agreement he “willingly but unwittingly” signed with the Florida marketing company, maintaining their deal was unlawful under North Carolina law, his attorneys told ESPN.
The saga of one of the most polarizing players in the history of the game continues to produce newsworthy moments. The Zion Effect is influencing basketball relationships on many different levels, from marketing to sneaker deals to player-agent relationships and the landscape for” enforcement of rules designed to protect college athletes from exploitation.”
According to ESPN, “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 still signed with CAA Sports.
“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.”
Zion’s lawyer Jeffrey S. Klein is also claiming that Ford and Prime Sports unethically mislead Williamson and the agreement failed to contain, as required under North Carolina’s UAA bylines, 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.
Prior to his draft declaration, there were rumors surfacing that Zion was contemplating a return to Duke, rather than play for the Pelicans. Now we know that would have been impossible because the fine print in his alleged deal with Prime Sports eliminated his college eligibility.
Klein addressed the situation in a statement to ESPN:
“Prime Sports Marketing’s actions towards Mr. Williamson blatantly violated the North Carolina statute specifically designed to protect student-athletes. Mr. Williamson properly exercised his rights under the law to void his business dealings with Prime Sports Marketing. Prime Sports Marketing’s continued threats against Mr. Williamson made necessary the filing of this lawsuit.”
The suit is asking that Williamson’s agreement with Prime Sports be terminated, but of course, the sports agency isn’t trying to just relinquish the goose who laid the golden egg without any compensation.
In a statement issued Thursday night, Ford maintained that a valid and enforceable contract exists between Prime Sports Marketing and Williamson.
“Prime Sports Marketing, LLC and Ms. Gina Ford look forward to litigating this matter in a court of law and are confident that they will prevail,” she said.
Prime Sports worked hard to do whatever it is they did to get Zion to sign with them initially. Whether done honestly or erroneously, Ford and Co. bagged the big fish and they want to at least get to marvel at it before tossing it back into the sea uneaten.
Not sure how that relationship will work if Prime Sports is allowed to stay on as Williamson’s agent for the next five years. It would be a strained relationship, to say the least, because communication would be difficult if the player isn’t satisfied with his representation. There’s a lot of trust involved with allowing someone to negotiate your contract and help mold your brand. This current legal battle already implies that Zion doesn’t trust Prime Sports.
This is an awkward situation, but probably not uncommon as the bottom line is some people just change their minds and any contract is voidable under the right circumstances.
Zion’s just trying to get out of this mess without having to pay Prime Sports for doing nothing more than being a bit more savvy and ruthless than the other agencies vying to become his representation.