The NCAA college basketball system is comparable to slavery and prison in its exploitation of labor, the mother of former Duke standout Wendell Carter Jr. told a panel dedicated to improving college athletics Monday.
"The problem that I see is not with the student-athlete, it’s not with the coaches and the institutions of higher learning, but it’s with a system like the only system I have ever seen 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," Kylia Carter told the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.
"The only two systems where I've known that to be in place is slavery and the prison system, and now I see the NCAA as overseers of a system that is identical to that."
Wendell Carter declared for June's NBA Draft after one season at Duke. His mother played college basketball at the University of Mississippi.
Wendell Carter played in all 37 games this season for Duke, averaging 13.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Carter, from Atlanta, was one of four Duke freshmen to declare for June’s NBA Draft. Carter is projected to be selected early in the first round.
"It feels to me that, this is kind of tough to say, it looks like there is an attempt to legalize purchasing people is what this looks like. When you pull back everything, you want to find a way to legally purchase the talent of an athlete and not compensate him for it financially. Compensate him by affording him an education that he did not ask for and giving that to him and telling him it will be beneficial to him when the talent is all you wanted from him anyway. When you pull back everything, that’s all this is. How do we purchase this talent and not compensate the player?" she said.
According to Yahoo!, Carter's name appeared on an expense report from Christian Dawkins, an agent who was arrested by the FBI, which is investigating corruption in college basketball. Dawkins and Kylia Carter had lunch, per the report.
She said being accused “was nauseating.”
“The people that were being indicted, I knew some of those people, and the people that were being indicted, it’s always odd to me the people that seem to bear the brunt of the trouble when I know for a fact this has been going on since I was being recruited,” she said.
Dawkins and four assistant coaches were indicted.
Kylia Carter praised Duke, saying though she wanted her son to choose Harvard over Duke, the Durham-based school “was a wonderful experience and everything that he needed it to be for him to come to the next level.”
Former NBA star David Robinson, whose son plays for Duke, was seated next to Carter on the panel. Robinson was also a member of the Rice commission on college basketball, whose findings were being discussed Monday.
“This should be a win-win situation for these kids. I hope that was your experience with Wendell at Duke. I don’t like the fact that he had to go to Duke. but he did,” Robinson said, referencing the NBA’s rule that requires draftees to be out of high school for one year. “I hope that experience was an eye-opening, wonderful experience for him.”
Carter was added to the panel of speakers on Friday. She said she was "floored" by the invitation. She told a story of her family's humble roots — her grandmother working on a cotton field in Mississippi and raising her mother and aunts and uncles.
She talked about being recruited by several colleges — Texas, Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi — with coaches coming to her small home and even her mother's workplace, a bank.
Carter said teachers ridiculed her son in the third grade when he said he wanted to play professional basketball. She said she and her husband, who played basketball professionally overseas, were thrilled by Wendell's choice.
But, she said, "we began to learn what it meant to be a professional basketball player and what it really was for your child to be a part of this association."
She said she felt compelled to speak out "because of the families that have been affected that look like my son and me and our family" and also because she felt shame over not believing black friends of hers at Ole Miss when they complained about poor treatment, such as having food thrown at them.
Carter earned degrees in business and finance and a masters of education in managerial finance from Mississippi. She co-founded with her husband Elevate2Educate, a program to help young athletes and their families prepare for the process of earning a scholarship and professional careers in sports.
"No one is telling anybody how to be a professional athlete. They just throw the money at you and throw you out there and let’s play and here's your check," she said. "Good luck."
Carter offered several solutions, including having the NCAA pay for more travel for immediate family to their sons' games and letting schools offer two-year degrees based on preparing athletes for life as a professional. She said she’d like to see a not-for-profit entity help families prepare their sons for the business of sports and how to handle wealth.'
"We’ve had some experience in the past where people have clearly brought very passionate viewpoints to our attention. As a mother myself, I certainly appreciate that she had the opportunity to tell us her story and to share her passion for what her son is experiencing and what she as a parent is experiencing," said Carol A. Cartwright, co-chair of the Knight Commission.
Carter, who is black, was not the only panelist to mention race. Former Duke star and current ESPN analyst Jay Bilas suggested that there might be a racial component to displeasure about college basketball's 1-and-done rule.
Bilas pointed out that no one complained when Jordan Spieth, a white golfer, left the University of Texas after one season to begin his professional career. Also, Bilas said, the NCAA was not looking into the relationships between golf equipment manufacturers' and collegiate golfers or golf teams.
"We live in a society and a county in which racism is part and parcel of who we are and who we’ve always been and for us to not acknowledge that is less than honest. And to think that whether it's the NCAA or the Knight Commission is somehow immune from that racism would be a little disingenuous," said Knight Commission co-chair Arne Duncan, the former secretary of education.
"I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to be reflecting every single day in our on our policies, in our practices and in what we're doing, are we doing everything we can to combat that or not."