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Judge says Zion Williamson must answer questions under oath about improper benefits at Duke

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A Florida state court judge on Tuesday denied New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson‘s request to stay discovery into whether or not he was eligible under NCAA rules when he played one season at Duke in 2018-19.

Florida 11th Circuit Court Judge David Miller ruled that Williamson will be required to answer interrogatories and requests for admissions from attorneys representing Gina Ford and Prime Sports Marketing, which are suing Williamson for $100 million for beaching their marketing agreement.

Williamson’s attorneys are expected to file an appeal with Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal, arguing that an earlier federal case in North Carolina involving the same parties and claims has precedence.

Williamson’s attorneys have asked a federal judge in that case to void his marketing agreement with Ford and Prime Sports Marketing, claiming it wasn’t valid because Ford wasn’t a registered agent in North Carolina and the contract didn’t include a warning that was required by a state law designed to protect amateur athletes from unscrupulous agents.

Ford and Prime Sports Marketing sued Williamson, Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and two of its employees in the Florida court, alleging that CAA interfered with Prime Sports’ deal with Williamson and that he breached their five-year contract.

Last month, Ford’s attorneys asked Williamson to admit that his mother and stepfather demanded and received gifts, money and other benefits from persons acting on behalf of Adidas and Nike and also from people associated with Duke to influence him to sign with the Blue Devils and to wear Nike or Adidas products.

“That issue is a complete canard and a complete red herring,” Williamson’s attorney, Jeffrey Klein, told Miller during a 52-minute virtual hearing on Tuesday morning. “[W]e believe that as a matter of law the statute bars that contract. The issue with respect to amateur status, there’s no issue with respect to his amateur status, and in fact if they wanted to find out the issue with respect to amateur status, eligibility is a determination made by the NCAA and made by Duke. I don’t think it’s relevant here to what’s transpiring because frankly those determinations have been made. … It doesn’t absolve their failure to comply with the North Carolina statute.”

Doug Eaton, one of the Ford’s attorneys, argued that the North Carolina law wouldn’t apply to Williamson if he were not eligible when he played for the Blue Devils.

“The NCAA is not the final arbiter of that issue,” Eaton told Miller. “We’re able to establish that he was not eligible during that timeframe, which would be a defense to their claim that our contract was invalid. The purpose of this statute is to protect student-athletes–actual student-athletes, eligible student-athletes–from predatory behavior of agents. It’s not designed to protect people that are already accepting improper benefits.

“If you’re accepting improper benefits, you are not an eligible student-athlete, and the NCAA can rule retroactively that you are ineligible. It has happened numerous times before. … This is not a set-in-stone determination that he’s an eligible student-athlete, and we have the opportunity to prove that he was not eligible in that timeframe, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

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Short-handed Nets reach deal with veteran guard Jamal Crawford

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — When the Brooklyn Nets boarded their plane out of New York on Tuesday, there were only 12 healthy players on board. But reinforcements are coming. Jamal Crawford is signing with the Nets for the remainder of the season, league sources told ESPN.

Crawford, 40, will fill one of the Nets’ three vacant substitute roster spots. Crawford is eligible to be signed after Brooklyn had three players — Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan and Taurean Prince — test positive for the coronavirus. All three have been ruled out for the season restart in Orlando, Florida. Wilson Chandler, citing familial obligations, also did not make the trip. The team signed forward Justin Anderson in his place.

Now the Nets have two roster spots available to be filled.

According to NBA rules, Crawford could fly or drive to Florida. If he hasn’t been tested regularly since June 23 — when the league started testing players every other day — he will need to quarantine and be tested every day for a week in Orlando before he will be eligible to join his new teammates on the court.

Crawford hasn’t played in the NBA in the 2019-20 season. He most recently played for the Phoenix Suns and scored 51 points in the last game he played in 2019. The 20-year veteran has averaged 14.6 points and 2.2 rebounds per game over the course of his career.

The deal was first reported by The Athletic.

The Nets arrived in Orlando on Tuesday as one of the 22 NBA teams scheduled to resume games on July 30. They are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game ahead of the Orlando Magic, who currently hold the final playoff spot.

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Stephen Jackson — Comments could have been clearer but had nothing to do with anti-Semitism

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Stephen Jackson apologized Wednesday night for using what he said were the “wrong words” in defending DeSean Jackson, but the former NBA player told CNN that what he said a day earlier should not be misinterpreted as support for anti-Semitism.

“As I first stated when I got on here, I could’ve changed my words,” Jackson told CNN’s Don Lemon. “But there’s nothing that said that I support any of that. There’s nothing that I said that I hate anybody.”

Jackson received criticism throughout Wednesday for saying that DeSean Jackson was “speaking the truth” with his social media posts in recent days that included an anti-Semitic message that he attributed to Adolf Hitler.

Stephen Jackson took to Instagram on Tuesday night to defend the Eagles receiver, saying in part: “You know he don’t hate nobody, but he’s speaking the truth of the facts that he knows and trying to educate others.” In the Instagram video, which was later deleted, Jackson did not mention Hitler or anti-Semitism, but he did speak of social injustice and police brutality and how “none of you NFL owners spoke up on that.” Jackson also spoke about Riley Cooper, the white receiver who shouted a racial slur at a Black security guard at a Kenny Chesney concert in 2013. Cooper was fined by the Eagles and apologized, then was signed to a five-year extension by the team the following year.

The Eagles called DeSean Jackson’s posts “absolutely appalling” on Tuesday. The receiver later apologized multiple times.

“Maybe I could’ve been more clear of what I thought DeSean was correct about, but I didn’t feel the need to go into a conversation that me and him had about how they were treating him and Riley Cooper,” Stephen Jackson told CNN. “I could’ve changed those words, but the people that know me — my Jewish friends that I talked to today — they know that the last thing I was spewing was to defend Hitler or any other post. That’s why I didn’t speak on Hitler or even speak on his post. I spoke on exactly what I agreed with, and they was handling him different than they was handling Cooper. That’s the end of it. They can twist it how they want, but that’s exactly what it is. I don’t hate nobody.”

Jackson, who retired from the NBA in 2014 after playing 14 seasons and winning a championship with San Antonio in 2003, has been a voice for social activism since the death of his friend George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police on Memorial Day.

“I’ve been out here fighting for justice and equality,” Jackson told CNN. “And I was speaking on equality — why they wasn’t handling Cooper and DeSean Jackson any other way. Like I said, they can twist it how they want to. You didn’t hear a word out of my mouth saying, ‘I hate Jews.’ You didn’t hear a word out of my mouth saying, ‘I’m supporting Hitler.’ They can twist it how they want. I don’t hate nobody. I’ve been standing up for everybody. I’mma continue to. And that’s just the end of it.”

A former NBA analyst for ESPN, Jackson played in the Big3 in 2018 and ’19 (the 2020 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic) and now helps host the “All The Smoke” video podcast on Showtime.

Earlier Wednesday, Showtime addressed Stephen Jackson’s initial comments about DeSean Jackson.

“Regardless of his intentions, Stephen’s comments were hurtful and inconsistent with the values espoused by this network,” it said in a statement.

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Short-handed Nets reach deal with veteran guard Jamal Crawford

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — When Brooklyn boarded their plane out of New York on Tuesday, there were only 12 healthy players on board. But reinforcements are coming. Jamal Crawford is signing with the Brooklyn Nets for the remainder of the season, league sources tell ESPN.

Crawford, 40, will fill one of the Nets’ three vacant substitute roster spots. Crawford is eligible to be signed after Brooklyn had three players — Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan and Taurean Prince — test positive for the coronavirus. All three have been ruled out for the season restart in Orlando. Wilson Chandler, citing familial obligations, also did not make the trip. The team signed forward Justin Anderson in his place.

Now, the Nets have two roster spots that are available to be filled.

According to NBA rules, Crawford could fly or drive to Florida. If Crawford hasn’t been tested regularly since June 23 — when the league started testing players every other day — he would need to quarantine and be tested daily for a week in Orlando before being eligible to join his new teammates on the court.

Crawford hasn’t played in the NBA in the 2020-21 season. He last played for the Phoenix Suns and scored 51 points in the last game he played in 2019. The 20-year veteran has averaged 14.6 points and 2.2 rebounds per game over the course of his career.

The deal with first reported by the Athletic.

The Nets arrived in Orlando on Tuesday as one of the 22 NBA teams scheduled to resume games on July 30. They are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game ahead of the Orlando Magic, who currently hold the final playoff spot.

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