Williamson, a former Duke star who was drafted No. 1 overall last year by the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, filed suit against Smith and Prime Sports in June after he signed with Creative Artists Agency. His legal team alleged Smith’s contract with him did not include language mandated by North Carolina law and meant to protect student-athletes from throwing away their college eligibility and that another violation was committed when neither she nor anyone else at her Florida-based agency registered as an athlete agent in North Carolina.
In response, Smith filed a $100 million lawsuit against Williamson, accusing him and CAA of a litany of offenses, including breach of contract and fraud.
Williamson signed with Prime Sports on April 20, 2019, five days after he declared for the NBA draft following a stellar freshman season at Duke. He joined CAA on May 30, at which point one of his new representatives reportedly notified Smith that Williamson’s agreement with her firm was “hereby terminated and voided effective immediately.”
While Williamson filed suit in a North Carolina federal court, Smith filed in a Florida state court, with each side looking for an edge from legal requirements in the respective states. For Williamson, a key element in his argument is a potential violation of North Carolina’s Uniform Athlete Agents Act. But Smith has countered he had essentially forfeited his college eligibility by the time he signed his contract with her and thus was not covered by the legislation.
The filing last week could be an attempt to help establish that depiction of Williamson or to pressure him into settling rather than put any further scrutiny on his family’s possible dealings with Duke and the two athletic-apparel giants while he was still a high school star in South Carolina.
Other requests for admission:
- “Admit that you knew that Sharonda Sampson demanded and received gifts, money and/or other benefits from persons on behalf of Nike (directly and/or indirectly) to influence you to attend Duke University to play basketball.”
- “Admit that before you became a student at Duke University, you knew that Lee Anderson demanded and received gifts, money and/or other benefits from persons acting on behalf of Adidas (directly and/or indirectly) to influence you to wear Adidas shoes.”
- “Admit that before you became a student at Duke University, you knew that Sharonda Sampson demanded and received gifts and/or other benefits from persons on behalf of Adidas (directly and/or indirectly) to influence you to attend a college that endorsed Adidas shoes.”
Duke has long had an apparel contract with Nike.
Adidas was embroiled in an FBI investigation into corruption in college sports that resulted in convictions in 2019 for a former executive with the company and a former Adidas consultant, as well as for four former college assistant coaches.
During a 2018 court proceeding stemming from the FBI probe, a transcript was read of an intercepted phone call in which former Kansas assistant Kurtis Townsend discussed the school’s recruitment of Williamson with former Adidas consultant Merl Code.
“Between me and you, you know, he asked about some stuff. You know?” Townsend was quoted as saying (via Yahoo Sports), leaving it unclear whether the “he” in question was Williamson, a member of his family or someone else. “And I said, ‘Well, we’ll talk about that; you decide.’ ”
“I know what he’s asking for. He’s asking for opportunities from an occupational perspective,” Code was quoted as having said in reply. “He’s asking for cash in the pocket, and he’s asking for housing for him and his family.”
In response to speculation at the time about the possibility that Duke committed NCAA violations in its recruitment of Williamson, a spokesman for the school said in a statement that all of Duke’s athletes are “subject to a thorough review to ensure their eligibility.”
“In men’s basketball, for the past several summers, Duke compliance officials, top recruits and their families have engaged in and cooperated fully with the NCAA Eligibility Center’s enhanced amateurism certification process,” the spokesman continued. “Duke works closely with the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference on all compliance and eligibility matters. As we have stated in the past, we have an uncompromising commitment to compliance in athletics.”
After celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti accused Nike last year of using cash payments to steer top recruits to specific colleges, including Duke, the school said outside investigators uncovered no wrongdoing by Duke. (Avenatti was found guilty of trying to extort Nike.)
“We found no evidence to support any allegation,” a Duke spokesman said in September (via ESPN). “Zion thrived as both a student and an athlete at Duke and always conducted himself with integrity and purpose.”