Bank records filed in federal court show Adidas executive Chris Rivers made payments from his Oregon-based company to former Duke star Zion Williamson’s family between 2016 and 2019, including payments to Williamson’s stepfather’s furniture store account.
The records, filed in a federal court in South Carolina, became available Monday and were obtained by The News & Observer. They were filed as part of a civil lawsuit between former college player Brian Bowen and Adidas over the shoe company’s payments to teenage basketball players and their families that violate NCAA amateurism rules.
The News & Observer reported last week the detailed testimony in depositions and documents about payments to Williamson’s family as well as a different Adidas rep buying plane tickets for former Duke player Frank Jackson while he was playing for the Blue Devils in 2016.
The documents obtained Monday included copies of bank records uncovered via a subpoena filed by Bowen’s attorneys. They show wire transfers from Rivers’ company, In Your Eye Sports, to a joint bank account in the name of Williamson’s mother, Sharonda Anderson, and her husband, Lee Anderson (Williamson’s stepfather) in 2016 and 2017.
The payments listed in the bank documents were for $1,000 on Dec. 21, 2016, $500 on Jan. 30, 2017, $2,500 on Feb. 24, 2017, and $1,000 on March 22, 2017.
Anderson ran the Adidas-sponsored S.C. Supreme summer-league team in 2017 and payments from Adidas to him for team expenses are permitted under NCAA rules. But the payments from Rivers’ company to Williamson’s family appear to violate those rules, which would have made Williamson ineligible during his one season playing for Duke in 2018-19.
A Duke athletic spokesperson didn’t respond to the N&O’s request for comment.
PAYMENTS TO ZION’S STEPFATHER’S FURNITURE ACCOUNT
Colin Ram, Bowen’s attorney also alleges, and bank account records show, Rivers made payments to the Ashley Furniture Homestores account that Williamson’s stepfather opened on Sept. 5, 2016.
Rivers wanted a protective order to prevent the banking documents from being filed in court. But Bowen’s attorney argued to Judge Joseph F. Anderson on May 10 that they should be included.
According to the motion filed by Bowen’s attorney: “In a letter to (Bowen’s) counsel from Synchrony Bank, the consumer financing company confirmed that at least two of the payments made to Zion’s stepfather’s Ashley Furniture account came from the Bank of the West account ending in –835 controlled by In Your Eye Sports, Inc.”
While the payment amounts are not shown, the documents from Synchrony Bank, which operates Ashley Furniture’s customer accounts, show payments were made in 2017 from a Bank of the West account, which is tied to Rivers, on Aug. 10 and Sept. 12.
A third payment to the account was made on Jan. 3, 2019. But the name of the bank where the money came from was redacted.
OTHER ALLEGED PAYMENTS TO ZION’S FAMILY
Earlier this year, Bowen’s attorneys filed a series of questions with the court for Adidas to answer. Known as interrogatories, these questions sought details of payments by Adidas to a host of recruits, including former N.C. State player Dennis Smith, Williamson and former Kansas players Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa. Kansas, which is an Adidas-sponsored school, also recruited Williamson.
William Taft, an Adidas lawyer, in a letter to one of Bowen’s attorneys filed with the court last month, said the shoe company “is aware of the following documents suggesting that certain fund transfers to Mr. Williamson or his family may have occurred.”
Taft in the letter went on to detail nine payments that totaled $5,474, starting with a $404 payment on Nov. 14, 2016, and ending with an $800 payment on Sept. 12, 2017. The largest payment was $1,107 on Feb. 14, 2017.
Taft also wrote, “Rivers may have transferred $3,000 per month to the Williamson family for an unspecified period of time” and “Rivers may have transferred $1,000 to the Williamson family.”
“Adidas does not know the specific purpose of these transfers,” Taft wrote.
Starting with a $404 payment on Nov. 14, 2016, a list of nine payments are detailed with the last being an $800 payment on Sept. 12, 2017, according to the letter. The largest payment was $1,107 on Feb. 14, 2017, the letter states.
FORMER MARKETING AGENT FILES ANOTHER MOTION
Evidence of these payments filed as part of the Bowen case are also now part of the case file in a dispute between Williamson and his former marketing agent, Gina Ford.
Ford signed Williamson in April 2019 with Florida-based Prime Sports Marketing, but Williamson broke the contract the following month to sign with his current agent, CAA. Ford claimed Williamson owes her $100 million for breaking the contract.
A federal judge in a Greensboro court ruled earlier this year that the contract between Ford and Williamson is void because Ford violated North Carolina’s Uniform Athlete-Agent Act due to her, among other things, not being registered with the state.
Ford’s attorneys argued that Williamson shouldn’t have been protected by that state law because he had already accepted payments that should have ruled him ineligible under NCAA rules.
In a motion filed last week in Greensboro, Ford’s attorneys asked federal judge Loretta C. Biggs to revisit her decision, citing the evidence of payments to Williamson’s family presented in the Bowen case.
As these allegations have been presented about Williamson’s family receiving payments over the last two years, Duke has always pointed to the NCAA Clearinghouse declaring Williamson eligible in 2018. Duke athletic director Kevin White, in statements released by the school, said Duke and the NCAA conducted enhanced background checks into the family’s finances to ensure no violations of NCAA amateurism rules had occurred.
Should the NCAA open an infractions case and rule that Williamson did indeed violate rules before and during his Duke career, it could rule the school has to vacate wins and serve other penalties for using an ineligible player even if the school had no knowledge of the violations. Duke went 32-6 during Williamson’s lone season, winning the 2019 ACC tournament championship but losing to Michigan State in the NCAA tournament regional final.