• Loading stock data...
Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Another Court Sides With Zion Williamson’s Years-Old Firing of Unregistered Agent

  • The Pelicans forward won an appeal by his former marketing agent.
  • It’s a deal he signed while still at Duke, which reignites questions about agent standards in college sports.
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Zion Williamson won a legal battle Monday over his former marketing agent, Gina Ford, who wanted $100 million from the Pelicans’ forward for breaching their contract. A federal appeals court upheld an earlier ruling that said Williamson was allowed to exit their five-year agreement—signed in 2019 while he was still at Duke— because Ford wasn’t registered as an agent in North Carolina, and failed to include a legally required clause to alert the player that he would forfeit his college eligibility by signing.

Williamson signed with Ford’s agency, Prime Sports Marketing, in April 2019, when he had already declared for the NBA draft. Those were the days before NIL, when college athletes weren’t allowed to do marketing deals. Williamson signing with an agent while still in college would’ve killed his eligibility—even though he didn’t intend to come back, going No. 1 in the draft.

“Prime concedes that Ford wasn’t registered as an agent in North Carolina, and under the Act, any agency contract between a student-athlete and an agent who fails to register in North Carolina is automatically void,” Judge Albert Diaz wrote for the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “Likewise, it’s undisputed that the Prime contract didn’t contain the requisite warnings. So even if the contract weren’t already void, Williamson was free to void it, which he did both via email and through counsel.”

The college sports scene has dramatically changed in the half decade since, but unregistered and unregulated agents have only become more of a problem for college athletes. In the pros, players’ unions like the NFL Players Association and National Basketball Players Association make agents undergo background checks, attend seminars, and take exams. But becoming an NIL agent doesn’t call for any kind of background check or certification by the NCAA.

Most states require registration, which means completing a short form and submitting a check (it costs $100 in New York), but agents don’t have to pass an NCAA rules test or any kind of licensing exam, and they largely fly under the radar of prosecutors. In some cases, NIL agents have even started repping high school athletes. All NCAA rules around NIL were deemed unenforceable by a federal ruling earlier this year, leaving it up to states to enact legislation, and making nationwide NIL agent certification possible only through Congress. College athletes are signing deals, but those offering to help them understand those deals aren’t subject to any oversight, leaving those athletes unprotected.

But the absence of an agent can also lead to problems. Former Florida football player Gervon Dexter signed away 15% of his pretax NFL earnings for the next quarter century to an investment firm and had to fight for it back in court.

For Williamson’s part, he signed with CAA in May 2019, a month after his initial deal with Prime.

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Next Up on NFL’s Travel Plans: Australia … and Abu Dhabi?

The league confirmed it is exploring a game in Australia.

On the Brink of Losing NBA Rights, TNT Grabs College Football Playoff Games

TNT will receive two first-round games during the next two playoffs.

Private Equity Set to Enter College Sports for First Time in NCAA History

Collegiate Athletic Solutions could facilitate the first private equity deal into a collegiate athletic department.

FBI Raids Prosecutor Who Led Mississippi Welfare Case That Ensnared Favre

Jody Owens had his office and nearby business searched by the feds.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Inside the Collapse of the Arena Football League


Featured Today


‘This Is Semi-Pro’: Inside One Arena Football League Team’s Collapse

The collapse of the Georgia Force, as told by the players who lived it.
Michael Block signs autographs on the 18th hole during day three of practice for the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on Wednesday, May 15, 2024.
May 19, 2024

‘I Prefer It This Way’: How Life Works for PGA Club Pros

Here’s how life works for the qualifiers at golf’s second major.
February 5, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; The grounds of the Capitol Building empty out following the conclusion of President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech on February 5, 2019.
May 18, 2024

‘A Breathtaking Lobbying Campaign’: The NCAA’s Sophisticated Effort to Save Amateurism

Inside the carefully coordinated, multimillion-dollar operation to end the athletes’ rights era.
May 14, 2024

The WNBA Was Forged in Houston. Why Won’t It Go Back There?

Houston’s a perfect fit for expansion. The league isn’t considering it yet.


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
EA Sports
Multiple - USA Careers
Multiple - USA Careers
Multiple - USA Careers

Lawsuit Claims LaMelo Ball Ran Over Young Fan With His Car

A mother and son are suing Ball and the Hornets over an October incident.
May 20, 2024

Fanatics Sues Marvin Harrison Jr., Says He Leaked ‘Misleading’ Info to ESPN

Harrison’s side says the two sides don’t have a contract, which Fanatics disputes.
May 21, 2024

Nika Mühl Finally Set to Play in WNBA After Immigration Red Tape Kept Her Out

The Storm rookie has missed four games waiting for her work visa approval.

Major League Rugby’s Vision for American Rugby

How Major League Rugby is leading the Rugby renaissance in the U.S.
May 17, 2024

World’s Best Golfer Arrested Attempting to Enter PGA Championship

Scottie Scheffler was arrested and released by Louisville police Friday morning.
May 16, 2024

Lawsuit: Blackhawks Lured Indigenous Consultant With False Promise of Changing Logo

The consultant claims the team failed to keep promises, including changing its logo.
May 14, 2024

NFL Wins Appeal in Jon Gruden Civil Suit, Case Headed to League Arbitration

The case is now headed to the league’s own arbitration system.
May 8, 2024

Former Ohtani Interpreter Pleading Guilty to Bank Fraud, False Tax Return

Ippei Mizuhara faces up to 33 years in federal prison for his crimes.