The former NBA star’s ex-wife, Siovaughn Funches-Wade, requested in a court filing on Tuesday that Zaya Wade, 15, wait until the “age of majority” to legally change her name and gender identity.
According to court documents obtained by PEOPLE, Funches-Wade also claimed that the athlete is “positioned to profit” from Zaya’s name and gender change through various companies and marketing opportunities “including but not limited to deals with Disney.”
“I have concerns that [Dwyane] may be pressuring our child to move forward with the name and gender change in order to capitalize on the financial opportunities that he has received from companies,” she alleged.
The objection was in response to a petition filed by Dwyane in August, which asked the court to legally change his daughter’s name from Zion Malachi Airamis Wade to Zaya Malachi Airamis Wade.
On Thursday, the 40-year-old basketball player took to social media to address his ex-wife’s claims. In an Instagram post, Wade called the allegations “serious and harmful” to his children.
“Since this must be the new way of parenting, I guess I have to address these allegations here, which is a damn shame,” he began the statement. “While I’m on a life-changing trip in our motherland, Africa, I’ve received a social media post about me forcing our 15-year-old child to be someone she’s not and to do something against her will. These are serious and harmful allegations that have hurt our children.”
He continued: “While none of us are surprised by Siohvaughn’s attempt to fight Zaya’s identity and her unwavering attempt to drag my name through the mud, I’m very disappointed that she continuously find ways of centering herself and HER needs, without regard to her children.”
The former Miami Heat player went on to praise his daughter for maintaining a “4.0 GPA in honors classes while navigating all this unsolicited and harmful attention and debates about her gender and sexuality”.
Wade also referenced a “similar attempt” his ex-wife made more than a decade ago, when she claimed in lawsuit that his relationship with actress Gabrielle Union had caused her and their two sons emotional distress, per ESPN. The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed.
Dwyane Wade and Siovaughn Funches-Wade began dating in high school and were married in 2002. The two welcomed two children – Zaire Blessing Wade and Zion Malachi Airamis Wade (now Zaya) – before the athlete filed for divorce in 2007. The messy divorce battle lasted for nearly three years, until Wade was given sole custody of their children.
The 40-year-old also shares daughter Kaavia, three, with wife Gabrielle Union, and son Xavier, eight, with Aja Metoyer.
“No one in our house would ever force Zaya or any of our children to do anything against their will, much less force an identity on them,” Wade said. “This isn’t a game for my family and definitely not for Zaya.”
He concluded his post by stating that his lawyer will respond to Funches-Wade’s court filing. “I will not sit on my hands this time and allow her to make a mockery of my dedication to my family,” Wade said. “The high road has run out of real estate.”
In 2020, Zaya Wade publicly came out as transgender when Union posted a clip of her step-daughter, alongside the caption: “Meet Zaya. She’s compassionate, loving, whip smart and we are so proud of her.
“It’s ok to listen to, love and respect your children exactly as they are. Love and light good people.”