Top NBA Draft pick Zion Williamson claims he was ‘illegally recruited by a sports agency’ in lawsuit

Top NBA Draft pick Zion Williamson claims he was ‘illegally recruited by a sports agency while he still played at Duke’ as the Pelicans rookie continues effort to void his contract with the firm amid a $100 million counter lawsuit

In an effort to terminate a contract with a Florida sports marketing company, top-overall NBA Draft pick Zion Williamson is claiming the firm violated North Carolina state sports-agent laws by prematurely recruiting him in January, while he was still playing at Duke.

According to ESPN, attorneys for the New Orleans Pelicans rookie filed additional amendments to his ongoing lawsuit on Wednesday, alleging that Prime Sports Marketing and its president, Gina Ford, acted improperly by failing to register with the NBA or the state of North Carolina while pursuing Williamson eight months ago.

Both Florida and North Carolina, among other states, require agencies to register before recruiting aspiring professional athletes.

The ongoing legal battle should determine which firm has the legal right to represent Williamson, who will make $9.7 million in salary as a rookie in 2019-20 apart from his lucrative endorsement deals.

The 19-year-old South Carolina native signed with Creative Artist Agencies after breaking with Prime Sports, which originally signed Williamson in April.

Since then, Williamson has sued Prime Sports in North Carolina, seeking to end the deal, while the agency countersued in Florida, seeking $100 million damages.  

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In an effort to terminate a contract with a Florida sports marketing company, top-overall NBA Draft pick Zion Williamson is claiming the firm violated North Carolina state sports-agent laws by prematurely recruiting him in January, while he was still playing at Duke

In an effort to terminate a contract with a Florida sports marketing company, top-overall NBA Draft pick Zion Williamson is claiming the firm violated North Carolina state sports-agent laws by prematurely recruiting him in January, while he was still playing at Duke

The ongoing legal battle should determine which firm has the legal right to represent Williamson, who will make $9.7 million in salary as a rookie in 2019-20 apart from his lucrative endorsement deals. According to Forbes’ Adam Zagoria, one insider said Williamson’s Nike deal was worth $75 million over seven years

The ongoing legal battle should determine which firm has the legal right to represent Williamson, who will make $9.7 million in salary as a rookie in 2019-20 apart from his lucrative endorsement deals. According to Forbes’ Adam Zagoria, one insider said Williamson’s Nike deal was worth $75 million over seven years

Prime Sports Marketing LLC and company president Gina Ford (pictured) filed a $100 million counter lawsuit, accusing Williamson and CAA of breach of contract

Williamson's new agent, CAA's Austin Brown, who also represents other NBA stars like D'Angelo Russell

Prime Sports Marketing LLC and company president Gina Ford (left) filed a $100 million counter lawsuit, accusing Williamson and CAA of breach of contract. (Right) Williamson’s new agent, CAA’s Austin Brown, who also represents other NBA stars like D’Angelo Russell 

Williamson’s deal with Prime Sports reportedly included a clause preventing him from ending the arrangement for five years, but his family told Ford on May 31 that he intended to do so anyway.

In June, Williamson filed his lawsuit in North Carolina, seeking to void the deal on the basis that it violated North Carolina’s Uniform Athlete Agents Act because Prime Sports did not certify with the NBA Players Association nor the states of North Carolina and Florida.

Furthermore, the contract did not explicitly state that Williamson would lose NCAA eligibility to compete as a student athlete by signing with Prime Sports, according to his attorney, and that is another violation of the UAAA.

Prime Sports has since filed the $100 million counter lawsuit against Williamson and CAA.

CAA’s Austin Brown, who also represents NBA stars such as Golden State Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell, reportedly signed on to become Williamson’s agent.

Williamson’s lawyer Jeffrey Klein told ESPN in June that his client was lawfully exercising his rights to void an improper contract.

“Prime Sports Marketing’s actions towards Mr. Williamson blatantly violated the North Carolina statute specifically designed to protect student athletes,’ Klein said in a statement. ‘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.”

Williamson's immense impact on the apparel industry was felt long before he turned pro this spring. During a February game against rival North Carolina, Williamson's Nike busted open, leaving the power forward with a sprained knee. Nike's stock price dipped 1 percent in the immediate aftermath of the highly-publicized incident - roughly the equivalent of a $1.1 billion loss for the apparel giant

Williamson’s immense impact on the apparel industry was felt long before he turned pro this spring. During a February game against rival North Carolina, Williamson’s Nike busted open, leaving the power forward with a sprained knee. Nike’s stock price dipped 1 percent in the immediate aftermath of the highly-publicized incident – roughly the equivalent of a $1.1 billion loss for the apparel giant

In a statement to The Associated Press in June, Ford’s attorneys said she ‘has worked tremendously hard to build Prime Sports Marketing into a competitive marketing and branding consulting firm while raising a family.

‘She’s deeply saddened and disappointed that what was once a promising business with Mr. Williamson has now resorted to legal action.’

The Prime Sports lawsuit states it was to receive 15 percent of compensation from Williamson’s marketing deals.

Williamson is one of the most anticipated rookies the NBA has had since the Pelicans drafted Anthony Davis first overall in 2012

Williamson is one of the most anticipated rookies the NBA has had since the Pelicans drafted Anthony Davis first overall in 2012

CAA employees eventually ‘induced’ Williamson to back out, telling his family CAA was ‘better suited’ and could secure more compensation on deals Prime Sports had previously pursued, according to Prime Sports’ lawsuit.

Williamson’s immense impact on the apparel industry was felt long before he turned pro this spring.

During a February game against rival North Carolina, Williamson’s Nike busted open, leaving the power forward with a sprained knee.

Nike’s stock price dipped 1 percent in the immediate aftermath of the highly-publicized incident – roughly the equivalent of a $1.1 billion loss for the apparel giant.

After Williamson’s wardrobe malfunction, Puma’s basketball Twitter account opportunistically responded: ‘Wouldn’t have happened in the Pumas.’

The tweet was later deleted and Williamson has signed an endorsement deal with Nike.

According to Forbes’ Adam Zagoria, one insider said Williamson’s Nike deal was worth $75 million over seven years. 

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