New Orleans Pelicans Star in Hot Water
Jun 24 2020

New Orleans Pelicans Star in Hot Water

By: John Glover

"Show me the money!" shouts Tom Cruise's character, Jerry McGuire, in the eponymously titled movie, easily the most famous depiction of a sports agent in American pop culture. A Hollywood fantasy, yet the fictional character's unforgettable refrain echoes all too often in the real-life schemes of conniving agents in their never-ending quest to get paid. Yahoo News reports that local basketball star Zion Williamson has been mired down in a legal quagmire with his former representatives, a veritable judicial storm of hypocrisy and greed.

While still a college student, Zion signed a five-year contract with Prime Marketing Sports, a deal the former Duke ringer promptly left with the ink scarcely dry. Zion sued, saying the contract was illegal due to his student-athlete status. The controversy hinges on a North Carolina statute, which prohibits professional agents from entering formal agreements with so-called "amateur" athletes, as Zion would have been at the time—in name, if not in effect.

Prime Marketing Sports then countersued, alleging that Zion was not an amateur at all because Duke was paying their star below-board. The agency entered into the civil case, purporting to show various luxury items acquired by Zion's family members, while he played for the ACC school.

If Zion's former representatives can prove that Zion received compensation for his play, an arrangement strictly interdicted by the NCAA, then they can get his student-athlete status retroactively revoked. Then, Zion would no longer be protected by the North Carolina regulation aimed at protecting amateurs from predatory sports agents. The agency could, then, put the one-that-got-away back on-the-hook for millions.

In a nutshell, the agency's argument seems to be prima facie, or self-apparent. They represented Zion. Therefore, he couldn't have been an amateur, because why else would he require professional representation? It's the kind of cynical position that speaks to the whole exploitative apparatus of college sports in the first place.

Most readers will already be familiar with Zion and his meteoric rise during his rookie spell with the Pelicans last season. Zion has proven to be a sportscaster's dream—a living, breathing highlight reel.

Photo by Michael Tipton.

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