While still a college basketball player at Duke University, Zion Williamson signed an agency agreement with Prime Sports Marketing and its founder, Gina Ford. Six weeks later, Williamson announced he found a better deal and was (fast) breaking the contract to team up with another agent. He then filed suit in the Middle District of North Carolina seeking a declaratory judgment that his contract with Prime Sports Marketing and Ford was void as a matter of law.
Six days later, Ford filed suit in Florida seeking $100 million in punitive damages, while also claiming Prime Sports Marketing sent Williamson’s stepfather $100,000 as an advance on his earnings and that he received impermissible benefits from Duke and several shoe companies, thereby rendering him ineligible as an amateur student athlete.
Williamson’s legal team asked Judge Loretta Biggs to throw out the flagrant contract, which would result in ejecting Prime Sports Marketing and Ford’s punitive damages claim. In her twenty-page review of the issue, Judge Biggs ruled the contract violated North Carolina’s Uniform Athlete Agents Act (“UAAA”) because (1) Ford was not registered as an agent in North Carolina and (2) the agreement did not include a required warning that signing it would cause Williamson to lose his NCAA eligibility.
Ford’s lawyers vowed to vigorously pursue their remaining claims and are considering an appeal. A reversal on appeal seems highly unlikely, however, since Judge Biggs’ order is based on fundamental legal requirements Ford and her team cannot likely overcome; simply put, she either was a registered agent or she wasn’t and the contract had the mandatory disclosure or it didn’t.
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