Zion Williamson’s biggest victory in 2021 so far came in the courtroom on Wednesday, as a federal judge in North Carolina granted the New Orleans Pelicans star a partial judgment in a $100 million legal battle against a former marketing agent, according to ESPN.
U.S. District Court judge Loretta C. Biggs reportedly voided the agreement Williamson signed with Gina Ford and Prime Sports Marketing days after declaring for the 2019 draft, specifically deciding the five-year deal did not meet the requirements of North Carolina’s Uniform Athlete Agents Act.
Per ESPN, Biggs reportedly ruled that Williamson was a student-athlete at Duke when he signed the marketing agreement, he was not declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA, the agreement did not include required warnings about eligibility, Ford was not a certified agent in North Carolina and Williamson’s camp communicated to Ford the contract was terminated.
Williamson’s attorney’s response, via ESPN:
“We are grateful that the Court invalidated the contract based on the merits of the case, in line with the clear, relevant requirements under North Carolina law,” Jeffrey S. Klein said in a statement. “The Court confirmed that actual facts matter, which hopefully will serve as a cautionary tale for unscrupulous agents looking to prey on student athletes.”
Why Zion Williamson was facing a $100 million lawsuit
The legal battle over the agreement began in June 2019, when Williamson terminated the recently signed agreement to sign with mega-agency CAA. Ford soon threatened to sue for $100 million, which she did after Williamson’s team filed a preemptive lawsuit against her.
What followed was an extended saga that reached its peak when Ford demanded Williamson admit under oath that he received illegal benefits while at Duke. With this latest ruling, it appears he won’t have to answer those questions.
Williamson’s attorneys have argued from the beginning that Ford’s deal should be voided because Prime Sports was not certified by the NBPA or considered a registered agent in North Carolina and the contract failed to include a line in bold, capital letters clearly stating that Williamson would lose his college eligibility if he signed, as required by North Carolina’s Uniform Athlete Agents Act. The law is one of many nationwide designed to protect student-athletes from shady “agents.”
They have since added allegations that Ford “grossly exaggerated” her credentials when pursuing the player as a client and was “predatory” while engaging with his relatives.
With the contract voided in federal court, it’s hard to see Ford have any leg to stand on in court going forward. One lawyer, The Athletic’s Daniel Wallach tweeted that the legal battle between Williamson and Ford is now “over,” pending appeal, with any appeal not expected to change the result.
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