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Appeals Court Sides with Zion Williamson in Case Against Unlicensed Agent

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Appeals Court Sides with Zion Williamson in Case Against Unlicensed Agent

In a ruling issued on May 6, Judge Albert Diaz of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a previous decision that New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson contract with Florida-based agent Gina Ford was invalid because Ford was not a licensed agent in North Carolina at the time she signed the agreement.

The Associated Press reported that Williamson filed a lawsuit against Ford in June 2019 after breaking their agreement and shifting his representation to Creative Artists Agency LLC ahead of the NBA Draft.

Diaz’s ruling protected Williamson from any penalties for breaking the deal, citing Ford’s lack of legal clearance to act as a sports agent in North Carolina.

Ford’s defense centered on the claim that Zion Williamson, a key player on Duke University’s 2019 men’s basketball team, was not a student-athlete. However, the National Basketball Association, which filed an amicus brief in the case, argued this was the first appellate case to interpret the definition of “student-athlete” under the Uniform Athlete Agents Act.

The court found Williamson’s interpretation of the Act as accurate, stating, “If a student is engaged in an intercollegiate sport when he signs an agency contract, he is a student-athlete subject to the Act.”

The court also noted that Williamson’s eligibility for the Act’s protections was clear, as he was active in a single sport at the time.

The court’s ruling aligned with the Act’s intent and confirmed Zion Williamson was entitled to void the contract because Ford was unlicensed. The lawsuit conceded Ford’s failure to register as an agent in North Carolina, rendering any contract with Williamson automatically void.

In his ruling summary, Diaz stated that none of the counterclaims brought by Ford and Prime were substantiated. He upheld the district court’s decision in Williamson’s favor, confirming the protections afforded by the North Carolina Uniform Athlete Agents Act.

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