Zion Williamson’s legal saga took a dramatic turn on Thursday when a court document outlined an alleged $400,000 payment to the basketball star and his stepfather before he played at Duke.
Williamson’s legal team countered with claims of fraud and forgery.
The affidavit was filed by attorneys for marketing agent Gina Ford, who is embroiled in a legal battle with the New Orleans Pelicans star seeking $100 million after he left her Prime Marketing Sports to sign with CAA.
Ford has filed several documents seeking to prove that Williamson was never eligible to play at Duke, which would bolster the case for her legal claim. The more alleged dirt that Ford uncovers also theoretically increases the pressure on Williamson to settle.
Affidavit outlines alleged $400K request
Thursday’s affidavit filed in a U.S. District Court in North Carolina is provided by a man named Donald Kreiss, who claims to have provided assistance to Slavko Duric’s Maximum Management Group, described as a small marketing group based in Ontario, Canada.
According to the affidavit, Duric requested help in securing a commitment from Williamson through his stepfather Lee Anderson before Williamson played at Duke. Kreiss claimed that he helped Duric and described the process of the alleged $400,000 payment.
“It was further my understanding that to secure the verbal commitment from Lee Anderson (who was acting on behalf of Zion Williamson and the Zion Williamson family) to have Zion sign with ‘MMG,’ Lee Anderson had demanded, and Duric paid, some $400,000 to Lee Anderson and Chubby Wells,” Kreiss wrote.
“I understood that the $400,000 to Lee Anderson and Chubby Wells was paid in the manner directed by Lee Anderson. My understanding is that Lee Anderson requested the money be wired to a bank in South Carolina, shortly after Zion started school at Duke (and that some may have been in October of 2018).”
Why would this matter to plaintiff?
Had Williamson and his family accepted $400,000 from a marketing group prior to or while playing at Duke, he would not have been eligible.
Williamson left his five-year deal with Ford’s Prime Marketing Sports a month after signing it and shortly before being drafted by the Pelicans in 2019. He sued the agency, claiming that the contract was illegal under North Carolina agent laws in place to protect amateur athletes. Ford’s countersuit against Williamson seeks to prove that he wasn’t eligible to play at Duke to begin with and therefore not protected by the law.
Other claims of housing, luxury cars
In June, Ford filed legal documents accusing Williamson’s family of accepting housing provided by a Duke alumnus and three luxury cars while Williamson was at Duke. That filing also sought testimony from Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Zion’s lawyer: ‘Frivolous’ and ‘fraudulent’
Williamson’s attorney Jeffrey S. Klein responded to Thursday’s claims, describing them in a statement to The Athletic’s Daniel Wallach as “frivolous” while calling the documents cited in the claim as “fraudulent.”
“The alleged ‘agreements’ and driver’s license attached to these papers are fraudulent — and neither Mr. Williamson nor his family know these individuals nor had any dealings with them,” the statement reads. “We had previously alerted Ms. Ford’s lawyers to both this fact and that we had previously reported the documents to law enforcement as forgeries, but they chose to go ahead with another frivolous filing anyway.
“This is a desperate and irresponsible attempt to smear Mr. Williamson at the very time he has the opportunity to live his ream of playing professional basketball.”
The documents in question can be seen below. If you look closely at the license you’ll notice that Williamson’s height and weight measurements are transposed.
This is the “Letter of Declaration” that Zion Williamson and his stepfather supposedly signed in Dec. 2019 acknowledging the $400K loan made by Slavko Duric in Oct. 2018 (when still enrolled in Duke), along with his driver’s license for authentication.
Real or fake?
You decide. pic.twitter.com/u7qo1U7DQI
— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) July 9, 2020
Williamson, 20, is readying for the resumption of his rookie season with the Pelicans, who are scheduled to play in the NBA’s bubble league at Disney World starting July 31.
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