Jun 5, 2020 - Sports

Zion Williamson granted stay on improper benefits inquiry

Zion Williamson in a Duke jersey as he flexes his arm
Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

While Zion Williamson's appeal was granted Thursday afternoon on a Florida judge's decision that he should answer questions regarding whether or not he accepted money and gifts to influence his decision to attend Duke, he may still eventually find himself under oath.

Why it matters: If the accusations are true, and Zion admits to them, he could be retroactively ruled ineligible for his lone season with the Blue Devils, and Mike Krzyzewski's program might never be looked at the same.

The backdrop: Days after declaring for last year's NBA draft, Williamson signed a five-year contract with Prime Sports, a marketing agency run by Gina Ford. A month later, he fired Ford and signed with Creative Artists Agency instead.

  • Ford sued Williamson for unlawfully breaking their contract, seeking $100 million in damages.
  • Then Williamson sued Ford, claiming the contract was invalid from the start due to violations of North Carolina's Uniform Athlete Agents Act.
  • Now, Ford believes that if she can prove Williamson's ineligibility, his case will be weakened and she'll have the upper hand.

The big picture: If the various accusations put forth by Ford, outlined here, are true — and Zion, his mother and stepfather accepted improper benefits from Nike, Adidas and Duke — everyone involved could be in hot water.

  • First, there's Zion. If the accusations are true, he must either admit to accepting improper benefits and greatly harm his legal case, or commit perjury by lying under oath.
  • Duke, meanwhile, has largely avoided recruiting scandals. If Williamson admits that he was paid, it could irreparably damage the program's credibility.

The bottom line: This is hardly the first time a college athlete has been accused of accepting money, and it won't be the last time, either. But there's a difference between everyone else, and Zion Williamson, arguably the biggest college hoops sensation of the 21st century.

Go deeper