Here’s a breakdown of the lawsuit between Zion Williamson and his former marketing representative, Gina Ford.
Who: Zion Williamson v. Gina Ford
Where: Williamson filed suit against Ford in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. Meanwhile, Ford filed her suit against Williamson in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court.
What: At or around April 15, 2019, Williamson made a deal with Gina Ford, president of Prime Sports Marketing, a sports agency. On May 30, 2019, Williamson signed with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), which broke the contract he had with Ford. Ford threatened CAA with a lawsuit, however Williamson threw a punch of his own and sued Prime Sports (Prime) on June 13, 2019 arguing that the contract he signed with Prime was invalid because they didn’t follow the guidelines of the North Carolina Uniform Athlete Agent Act (UAAA). On June 19, 2019, Ford counter-sued Williamson alleging that he breached his contract with Prime when he signed with CAA. She is seeking more than $100 million in damages. Both parties requested each other’s lawsuits to be dismissed but both were denied. On May 10, 2020, Ford served Williamson with Requests for Admission (RFA’s).
Why: RFA’s are part of the discovery process in a lawsuit and allow one party to request that another party admit or deny the truth of a statement under oath. The RFA’s Zion have been served with could be particularly damning to him, his family, and anyone involved with Duke University Basketball. One RFA asks Zion to “fully state all facts that show how Sharonda Sampson and Lee Anderson (his mother and stepfather) found and paid for the house in which they lived during the time that you attended Duke.” Another asks Zion to “admit that you knew Lee Anderson demanded and received gifts, money and/or benefits from persons on behalf of Duke University to influence you to attend Duke University to play basketball.” Everyone knows the NCAA is incredibly stringent on what benefits an athlete and their family may receive and if Zion admits to any of these RFA’s Duke University could be facing severe sanctions from the NCAA. Likewise, companies such as Adidas and Nike who are mentioned in the RFA’s could be facing reputational damages.
What’s Next: Ford’s attorneys said they would be vigilant in discovery and would “leave no stone unturned.” This means legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski will likely be deposed. A deposition is where a person appears at a specified time and place and gives sworn testimony. This obviously isn’t great news to hear if you are a Duke fan but Coach K will have the best attorneys armed and ready for battle. Meanwhile, look for Zion and Co. to do everything possible to get these RFA’s thrown out of court, mainly by using their right to object. A party may respond to an RFA by objecting to all or part of it. Zion could claim the RFA’s are irrelevant to the case and that the interrogatories are purely used as harassment. Additionally, his legal team will likely pursue a settlement as the reputations of their client, Coach K, Duke University and two of the biggest companies in the world (Adidas and Nike) are on the line.