Zion Williamson May Have Taken Under-the-Table Payments From Duke, Adidas and Nike + More Explosive Allegations

Zion Williamson May Have Taken Under-the-Table Payments From Duke, Adidas and Nike + More Explosive Allegations

Ella Chochrek

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Zion Williamson is engaged in a vicious court battle with his former marketing representative.

Prime Sports Marketing president Gina Ford alleges that the rising NBA star broke a five-year contract with her company in order to sign with CAA and is seeking $100 million in damages. Further, Ford is asking Williamson to admit that he and his family received under-the-table gifts and money from Nike, Adidas and Duke.

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Williamson sued Ford and Prime Sports Marketing in North Carolina U.S. district court in June 2019, alleging that his contract was in violation of North Carolina’s Uniform Athlete Agents Act because Prime Sports is not certified by the NBA Players Association.. That same month, Ford and Prime Sports Marketing sued Williamson and CAA in Miami-Dade court, accusing the athlete of breaching his contract and alleging that CAA interfered with Prime Sports and Williamson’s deal.

Below, FN rounds up the most explosive accusations in court filings in Miami-Dade judicial circuit court and North Carolina U.S. district court.

Williamson’s parents received illegal gifts from Duke

Williamson is asked by Ford to admit that his mother, Sharonda Sampson, and stepfather, Lee Anderson, received “gifts, money and/or other benefits” from persons on behalf of Duke to influence his decision to attend the university. (Williamson played one season with the school before declaring for the NBA Draft, where he was selected No. 1 overall.) NCAA policy prohibits teams from paying players or their families.

Representatives acting on behalf of Nike and Adidas paid Williamson

In a Miami-Dade filing, Ford asks Williamson to admit that his mother and stepfather “demanded and received gifts, money and/or other benefits from persons on behalf of Nike” to influence Williamson’s decision to play at Duke, where students wear Nike uniforms. Further, she claims Williamson’s parents demanded similar gifts/payments from Adidas to “influence [him] to wear Adidas shoes.”

Ford paid $100,000 to Williamson’s family in April 2019

Ford alleges that she paid $100,000 to Williamson’s stepfather “within days” of entering a marketing agreement in April 2019. In the federal court filing, Ford claims the payment was made with Williamson’s “direction, instruction, consent, permission and knowledge.”

Ford was negotiating a $100 million shoe deal

According to Ford, she had “successfully secured, obtained and negotiated” a shoe deal worth at least $100 million for Williamson, with his “authorization and knowledge,” when he decided to break his contract and sign with CAA. Williamson ended up signing a deal with Jordan Brand, which Forbes says could span years and pay out $75 million. While Ford did not name the sneaker company she was negotiating with, she wrote in a court filing that she was engaged in “ongoing fruitful negotiations” with brands including Puma, General Mills, Beats by Dr. Dre, T-Mobile, Mercedes-Benz, Burger King and more.

Michael Avenatti made similar allegations in August 2019

In an August 2019 court filing, embattled attorney Michael Avenatti alleged that Nike approved illicit payments to Williamson in February 2017, while Williamson was still in high school. Avenatti claimed that the Swoosh approved a payment of $35,000 to the athlete. At the time, Nike declined to comment, telling FN: “Nike will not respond to the allegations of an individual facing federal charges of fraud and extortion.” (Avenatti has been found guilty on three counts related to his alleged attempt to extort Nike and could face up to 40 years in prison.)

FN has reached out to Adidas and Nike for comment.

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