RALEIGH, N.C. (CN) — A legal battle over marketing for pro basketball star Zion Williamson has heated up with a new claim that the rookie’s family improperly received $400,000 for exclusive promotional rights prior to his only college season.
Attorneys for Prime Sports Marketing President Gina Ford filed a declaration Thursday in North Carolina federal court that alleges Williamson’s family accepted money from another marketing agency while he was still under contract with Ford.
Last summer, Williamson filed a federal lawsuit in the Middle District of North Carolina to terminate a five-year contract with Prime Sports after moving to Creative Artists Agency LLC. His decision prompted Ford to sue the player for breach of contract a week later in Florida state court.
In the Florida case, which was stayed by an appeals court in order to shift focus to the North Carolina proceedings, Ford’s attorneys raised questions about whether Williamson received improper benefits before playing for the Duke University Blue Devils in the 2018-2019 season.
Thursday’s filing includes a sworn affidavit from a California man named Donald Kreiss, who claims the head of a Canadian-based firm called Maximum Management Group admitted to paying Williamson’s family for his commitment to sign with MMG once he left Duke for the NBA.
According to Prime Sports attorney Alvin Pittman, Kreiss directly provided the affidavit, attaching a copy of a marketing agreement between Williamson and MMG and a letter signed by Williamson and his stepfather promising to repay MMG President Slavko Duric for a loan of $500,000.
Jeffrey Klein, Williamson’s attorney, said Ford’s assertion that Williamson’s family accepted the cash was “a shameful attempt to distract from their admitted violations of North Carolina law.”
“As Duke University stated in 2019, they and the NCAA both investigated and confirmed Mr. Williamson’s student-athlete eligibility,” Klein said. “The defendants’ baseless allegations are a continuation of the predatory acts the agent statute was designed to protect against.”
According to Williamson’s suit, Prime Sports and Ford violated a North Carolina law that forbids a person from acting as an athlete’s agent without holding a certificate from the Secretary of State’s Athlete Agent Registration Office.
His attorneys with the Charlotte firm Robinson Bradshaw argue that the law “specifically provides that any agency contract is void if made with an individual who is not so registered.” They also claim some aspects of Ford’s contract terms were “draconian.”
Duke University declined to comment Friday.