Pelicans' Zion Williamson granted full stay by Florida appeals court

A state appeals court in Florida on Wednesday granted Zion Williamson a full stay of a civil lawsuit brought by his former marketing manager, meaning the New Orleans Pelicans star won't have to answer discovery requests about whether his parents received improper benefits before or while he played one season at Duke, or at least not until after a federal case involving the same issues is resolved.

Earlier this month, Florida 11th Circuit Court Judge David Miller ruled that Williamson would be required to answer interrogatories and requests for admissions from attorneys representing Gina Ford and Prime Sports Marketing, who are suing Williamson for $100 million for allegedly breaching their marketing agreement.

Williamson's attorneys successfully argued to the appeals court that an earlier federal case in North Carolina involving the same parties and claims has precedence.

Williamson's attorneys have asked a federal judge in that case to void his marketing agreement with Ford and Prime Sports Marketing, claiming it wasn't valid because Ford wasn't a registered agent in North Carolina and the contract didn't include a warning that was required by a state law designed to protect amateur athletes from unscrupulous agents.

Shortly after the federal lawsuit was filed, Ford and Prime Sports Marketing sued Williamson, Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and two of its employees in the Florida court, alleging that CAA interfered with Prime Sports' deal with Williamson and that he breached their five-year contract.

Last month, Ford's attorneys asked Williamson to admit that his mother and stepfather demanded and received gifts, money and other benefits from people acting on behalf of Adidas and Nike, and also from people associated with Duke, to influence him to sign with the Blue Devils and to wear Nike or Adidas products. Ford's attorneys have asked the federal judge in North Carolina to deny Williamson's motion for partial judgment and allow them to conduct discovery into his parents' living arrangements and financial history before and while he played for the Blue Devils.

The motion by Ford's attorneys included property records and real estate listings that they say show that after Williamson signed with Duke, his parents moved from a home in South Carolina with an advertised monthly rent of $895 to a home in Durham, North Carolina, with a listed monthly rent of $4,495. Ford's attorneys wrote that a Duke graduate owns the North Carolina home, which was valued at approximately $950,0000 at the time.

Ford's attorneys also asked the judge to allow them to examine whether three vehicles registered to Williamson's parents -- a 2018 Mercedes Benz G-Class Wagon, a 2016 GMC Yukon and a 2015 Cadillac Escalade -- "impacted Plaintiff's eligibility to be/remain a 'Student-athlete.'"

Williamson's attorney, Jeffrey S. Klein, called Ford's and Prime Sports Marketing's latest filing in the federal case 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 wrote. "The defendants' baseless allegations are a continuation of the predatory acts the agent statute was designed to protect against. Mr. Williamson looks forward to his day in court in North Carolina and, until then, remains focused on the NBA season and proudly representing his family, fans, and the city of New Orleans."
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