According to a civil lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, New Orleans Pelicans player Zion Williamson and his family members, including his stepfather and mother, have allegedly not repaid $1.8 million of a $2 million loan from a California-based technology company. The loan was made in September 2021 by Ankr PBC as part of an effort to establish a marketing relationship with the Pelicans’ All-Star power forward.
In the lawsuit, the company that specializes in blockchain-related technologies used in finance and data storage said that they wanted Williamson to be a spokesperson for Ankr. The lawsuit also mentioned that Williamson’s stepfather, who represented him as his business manager, asked for $150,000 upfront to negotiate a business relationship with his stepson. According to the lawsuit, Ankr believed that Williamson’s stepfather had the authority to negotiate business deals for him based on Williamson’s statements.
No response was received from Anderson regarding the message left on Wednesday. According to the lawsuit, Ankr has assisted Williamson with community events and even helped him get a personal chef and a physical trainer. Williamson’s mother, Sharonda Sampson, is a defendant in the case because Ankr wired money into her account after Anderson claimed that their family urgently needed a “bridge loan” to cover investment obligations.
According to the lawsuit, Anderson claimed that the loan was urgent because his family had made costly investments, such as buying property in New Orleans, and could not meet their obligations due to Williamson’s temporary suspension of payments from sponsorship deals, caused by an injury. Ankr further claims that Anderson said his family would face financial difficulty and that Williamson would not do business with Ankr if the loan was not granted immediately.
Ankr agreed to loan money with the condition that it be paid back by August 21, 2022. However, Anderson asked for extensions, and when Ankr finally received a $25,000 check, it bounced. Ankr and Anderson also entered into a forbearance agreement last April. The agreement stated that Ankr would not sue if it received repayment of $500,000 by April 25 and the rest by July 6. Ankr received the first $500,000 but most of it covered interest, and the remaining $1.8 million has not been repaid.
Williamson, a former Duke college basketball star and the first overall NBA draft pick in 2019, has been named an All-Star twice despite several injuries. The 6-foot-6, 285-pound player’s impressive combination of size, speed, agility, and jumping ability has helped him maintain an average of 25.8 points per game, which often includes exciting dunks that entertain crowds. Unfortunately, he has experienced knee, foot, and hamstring injuries in his first four seasons, playing in only 114 games and missing 194 regular-season games and all nine playoff games.
The Pelicans gave him a five-year rookie maximum extension worth $193 million plus incentives when they signed him last summer. This extension will take effect in the 2023-24 season.
Williamson and his stepfather have been involved in several lawsuits with a marketing agent in Florida. The agent, Gina Ford, is seeking $100 million from Williamson, alleging that he violated their agreement to represent him in endorsement deals. A federal judge in North Carolina ruled that any agreement between Williamson and Ford was void. The judge determined that Ford was not authorized to act as an agent in North Carolina when she met Williamson and that the agreement they signed did not fulfill important criteria specified by the state’s sports agent law, the Uniform Athlete Agents Act.
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