Zion filing vs. ex-agent alleges early recruitment

The attorneys for New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson filed additional amendments to a lawsuit that is attempting to enforce the termination of a signed agreement with a Florida marketing company.

The amendments, filed in the U.S. District Court in North Carolina by Williamson’s New York-based lawyer Jeffrey Klein on Wednesday, include further details of alleged violations of state laws under North Carolina state sports agents laws by the Florida company, Prime Sports Marketing and its president, Gina Ford. Prime Sports filed a suit in the Florida courts in June shortly after Williamson’s filing that seeks $100 million in damages from Williamson and his current representation, Creative Arts Agency, for “breach of contract.”

The amended complaint on Williamson’s behalf toward Prime Sports include an allegation that Ford and Prime Sports began recruiting Williamson as early as January 2019, when he was still engaged during his freshman basketball season at Duke. Prime Sports and its president Gina Ford were not certified by the National Basketball Players Association or registered in the state of North Carolina, which is at the crux of Williamson’s case to enforce termination of his agreement with Prime Sports.

Many states, including North Carolina and Florida, require by law that agents are registered to recruit or sign prospective professional athletes.

After breaking with Prime Sports, Williamson signed with CAA for his contractual and marketing representation.

The amended suit also includes claims of fraudulent inducement and violations of the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Williamson’s attorneys are also seeking attorneys fees.

According to the suit filed in federal court in North Carolina on June 18, Williamson signed a marketing deal with Gina Ford and Prime Sports on April 20, five days after he had declared his intention to enter the NBA draft.

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 had since signed with CAA Sports for his contractual and marketing representation.

According to the original 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. Additionally, the agreement failed to contain, as required under the UAAA, 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.

Jeffrey S. Klein, an attorney for Williamson, told ESPN in a statement at the time of the June 18 filing: “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.”

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