Mom of Duke’s Wendell Carter says NCAA system resembles ‘slavery and the prison system’
WASHINGTON — Kylia Carter, the mother of recent Duke basketball player Wendell Carter, unloaded on the NCAA and the current system for big-time college sports on Monday, equating the economic arrangement for athletes to those of slavery and the prison system.
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Carter made her remarks during a stunning opening statement as a panelist during a meeting of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics in Washington, D.C. After waiting through remarks of five other speakers, including St. Joseph’s men’s basketball coach Phil Martelli and ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas, Carter leaned into a microphone and launched into an emotional, personal indictment of system in which she referenced her own recruitment and career as player at the University of Mississippi.
She finally came around to comments that were as blunt as anything the Commission has heard since former shoe company representative Sonny Vaccaro basically told college presidents in the early 2000s that they had sold their souls for shoe-and-apparel money.
“The problem that I see is not with the student-athletes, it’s not with the coaches or the institutions of higher learning but it’s with a system … where the laborers are the only people that are not being compensated for the work that they do while those in charge receive mighty compensation,” she said. “The only two systems where I’ve known that to be in place are slavery and the prison system. And now I see the NCAA as overseers of a system that is identical to that. So it’s difficult for me to sit here and not say that there is a problem that is sickening.”
Carter, who was added to the program Friday after another scheduled speaker had to cancel, went on: “I think the covers should be pulled back so everyone can see the truth and be aware of what’s really happening to the student-athlete and their families because once these students are recruited to these institutions of higher learning … at the end of the day, the talent is being purchased, but the talented are not receiving any of the benefit. The colleges are only recruiting the talented kids for their talent. They’re not recruiting them because they will excel academically at their institution. So (what) is the benefit of them going to that institution?
“I want them to go, but I want them to go for two years. … Why can’t they go to college and get a two-year certificate in this professional sport that they are pursuing if they are that talented, so that they are aware and educated on the business of the sport. … Why is there not something to protect these kids that look like my son and me — protect them as they pursue what their talent has allowed them to pursue.”
These kinds of issues are part of the reason that, after the meeting, commission co-chair Arne Duncan made a statement in which he said the commission essentially has determined that the NCAA member schools will no longer capable of making meaningful change without fundamental change to their governance system.
He said the commission is calling for the association to move toward a setup under which the two NCAA groups responsible for overseeing big-time sports — the Board of Governors and the Division I Board of Directors — have a majority of their members be independent from colleges and universities.
“It’s no different than good corporate governance” or governance of other non-profit organizations, said Duncan, a former U.S. secretary of education. He said the NCAA needs to move away from “being a membership association with all of the inherent conflicts of interest … and self-dealing that makes it hard for it to show the courage it needs” to make the changes needed to re-establish public confidence in college sports.
The Knight Commission’s meeting and recommendations come in the wake of a report and recommendations from the Commission on College Basketball, which was chaired by former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. The Rice panel was appointed as reaction to the latest college basketball scandal, this one involving the steering of players to certain schools in exchange for payments among a variety of parties, including shoe and apparel companies and college basketball assistant coaches.
Among the Knight Commission’s recommendations unveiled Monday was a reversal of a rule change made by the Division I membership two years ago that ended mandatory reporting of athletics staffers’ athletically related outside income. These reports often showed amounts coaches received from shoe and apparel companies.
Duncan said he “can’t see any good reason” why this form of income should not be subject to public disclosure, including by coaches at private schools.
NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said that “it’s time to revisit that (rules) change.
In an interview after her appearance, Carter said he was shocked to have been invited to speak.
But she said that once invited she felt obliged to speak her mind.
“I remember being at Ole Miss and being told that injustices were being done and never looking at with a realistic eye because my eyes were kind of shaded from the light of being a student athlete at a great institution,” she said.
“I wanted to say it because it hasn’t been said. There is a big disparity, a sad disparity in this profession for people of color and it’s not fair and I think that disparity comes from them not being educated and informed. And it’s like the truth is being kept from them. It’s near and dear to my heart because it concerns my son and his friends and my friends. So, I guess it’s just in me.”
She also she felt emboldened because many of the Rice Commission’s reforms were centered around preservation of much of the NCAA’s current model, including the current model for compensating athletes.
“You want reform things, but reform it in a way that allows you to continue doing what you’re doing,” she said. “That’s not reform, and that’s what this feels like. That’s why I went in and said that — you just want to keep what you’re doing and make it legal and make us be OK with it.”