Judge: Zion Williamson must answer Duke eligibility questions

New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson must answer questions under oath regarding his eligibility to play for Duke during the 2018-19 season, a Florida state judge ruled in Miami on Tuesday.

Williamson’s request for a stay of discovery was denied by Florida 11th Circuit Court Judge David Miller, requiring Williamson to answer questions from agent Gina Ford and Prime Sports Marketing stemming from their $100 million lawsuit against him.

Williamson’s attorneys are expected to appeal to Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal, according to ESPN, citing that a federal case that Williamson filed against Ford and Prime Sports in North Carolina has precedence.

Ford filed suit against Williamson and his new agency, Creative Artists Agency, on the day he was drafted first overall into the NBA last June, citing breach of contract. Last month, Ford’s attorneys filed requests for Williamson to admit that his mother, Sharonda Sampson, and stepfather, Lee Anderson, demanded and received money, gifts and other illegal benefits from Adidas, Nike and Duke during a recruitment that led to his signing with the Blue Devils.

Zion Williamson
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Williamson left Prime Sports in May 2019, about one month after signing with the agency, claiming the contract was invalid under North Carolina’s Uniform Athlete Agent Act because Ford was not a registered agent in the state. Williamson then signed with CAA, a few weeks before he was drafted.

Ford’s representation argued that North Carolina’s law would not apply if Williamson accepted improper benefits and was thus not eligible as a student-athlete.

“The purpose of this statute (the Uniform Athlete Agent Act) is to protect student-athletes — actual student-athletes, eligible student-athletes — from predatory behavior of agents,” Doug Eaton, one of Ford’s attorneys, said during Tuesday’s virtual hearing, according to ESPN. “It’s not designed to protect people that are already accepting improper benefits.

“If you’re accepting improper benefits, you are not an eligible student-athlete, and the NCAA can rule retroactively that you are ineligible. It has happened numerous times before.”

The recruitment of Williamson arose during the 2018 college basketball corruption trial in New York when a federal wiretap caught former Adidas consultant Merl Code and Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend discussing what it would take for Williamson to select the Jayhawks.

Duke previously stated that it worked with the NCAA and ACC to certify Williamson’s eligibility.

Williamson, who turns 20 in July, averaged 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in 19 games with the Pelicans before the season was paused in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)