The world might finally found out if Zion Williamson was paid during his freshman year at Duke, but does anyone really care?
The legal issue stems from a contract dispute between Williamson and his current agency — Creative Artists Agency — and his old representation — Prime Sports Marketing.
Prime Sports Marketing is pushing for Williamson to admit that he was ineligible during his freshman year at Duke. They are alleging that Williamson’s mother and stepfather asked for and received gifts and other benefits from Nike, Adidas, and Duke.
Williamson’s lawyers are arguing that this is irrelevant to the case itself and called it a “red herring.”
Why This Matters
Honestly, this legal issue boils down to two agencies going to war over a contract dispute. If you’re looking for a dense review of the facts of the case, this isn’t it. Williamson’s eligibility is one part of a much larger issue, but let’s hone in on the ridiculousness of figuring out whether or not Zion got paid at Duke.
No one really cares about whether or not Zion and his family got paid at Duke. How much money did he make that school for the one year he was there? If anything, he was probably underpaid. Check that, he was almost definitely underpaid.
Williamson’s rise to stardom almost certainly coincided with major profits for the school and by extension the NCAA. According to Business Insider, Duke basketball brought in more than $34 million in revenue in 2017.
It’s unclear exactly how big of a bump Duke saw on its bottom line because of Zion, but there is little doubt in his overall effect on the program. Television ratings and ticket prices soared whenever Zion and Duke had a game.
Of course, Duke was already making money hand over fist off of its basketball program, but the point remains the same. Williamson’s presence at Duke helped tons of people make tons of money while he was supposed to simply be happy with the chance at a free education.
Thankfully, Williamson emerged from college with his health intact and can make a nice living at the next level, but the hypocrisy of the NCAA system is still so obvious. The NCAA is making billions of dollars off of student-athletes, but few will ever reap the benefits of all that money.
Still, there’s more to this story. In early May, Sports Illustrated reported that it was “likely” that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is likely to be deposed in this case. The coaching legend has eluded scandal during his 40-year tenure at Duke.
Duke defenders could deflect criticism of Krzyzewski by pointing to the John Caliparis, Will Wades, and Rick Pitinos of the world. Those were the “bad” coaches who had to resort to paying players and breaking the rules. Clearly, finding the distinction between “good” and “bad” coaches is an impossible task. Rather, the NCAA is filled with cogs in the system who are just doing whatever it takes to be successful.
The student-athletes are often caught in the middle of two tremendous forces: the desire to win and the need to make money.