Zion Williamson's lawyers doubt marketing firm's contract

FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2020, file photo, New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson grabs a rebound during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in New Orleans. The marketing agent who has sued NBA rookie Williamson wants the former Duke star to answer questions about whether he received improper benefits before playing his lone season with the Blue Devils. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2020, file photo, New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson grabs a rebound during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in New Orleans. The marketing agent who has sued NBA rookie Williamson wants the former Duke star to answer questions about whether he received improper benefits before playing his lone season with the Blue Devils. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Lawyers for New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson want a federal judge in North Carolina to rule that a marketing firm suing Williamson for $100 million never had a valid contract with the former Duke star.

Prime Sports Marketing and its president, Gina Ford, sought breach-of-contract damages from Williamson and his current representatives at Creative Artists Agency after the player pulled out of an agreement with Prime Sports before he became the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft.

The motion filed by Williamson attorney John Wester in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem this week centers on North Carolina’s Uniform Athlete Agent Act. The law is meant to shield amateur athletes from agents trying to take advantage of their lack of experience with acquiring professional representation.

It requires agents to be registered in the state. It also requires contracts to contain a warning that athletes are forfeiting amateur eligibility, as well as language stipulating that athletes have 14 days to cancel the agreement.

Wester argued in a memorandum in support of his motion that Prime Sports’ contract with Williamson contained none of that required language, which is supposed to be “prominent, all-caps, and bold.”

Wester also asserts that Ford, who was Prime Sports’ primary contact with Williams and his family, was not registered in North Carolina.

“These statutes recognize the vulnerability of young student-athletes and attempt to aid their transition to professional sports by preventing manipulative, underhanded behavior from athlete agents who prey on student-athletes’ youth, and the athletes’ and their families’ inexperience in the industry,” Wester wrote.

Ford’s attorneys this month filed documents alleging Williamson “engaged in conduct that rendered … him ineligible to be or remain a student-athlete” before Williamson had met Ford to discuss endorsement deals. In theory, the claim would render arguments about the Uniform Athlete Agent Act moot, although no evidence has been offered yet to back it up.