WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In an emotional address on Monday at a meeting of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, Kylia Carter, mother of former Duke basketball star Wendell Carter, compared the current system of NCAA basketball to slavery and a prison system.
"When you remove all the bling and the bells and the sneakers and all that," she said, "you've paid for a child to come to your school to do what you wanted them to do for you, for free, and you made a lot of money when he did that, and you've got all these rules in place that say he cannot share in any of that. The only other time when labor does not get paid but yet someone else gets profits and the labor is black and the profit is white, is in slavery.
"To be honest with you," she said, "it's nauseating."
With her voice cracking at times, Carter humanized an otherwise agenda-filled morning that focused on reactions to the Rice Commission's recent report and the troubles that have plagued college basketball for decades, forcing the push for real reform following a highly publicized FBI investigation this past fall.
Donald Remy, the NCAA's chief legal officer, said the goal is to have the recommendations of the Rice Commission structured so they can be implemented by next basketball season, saying, "This is not the NCAA as usual," and "work has already begun." Carter's message, though, was that the societal and race-related problems that plague many athletes and their families run deeper than anything that could possibly be changed by August.
Carter, who played basketball at and graduated from Ole Miss, paused to collect herself and her thoughts as she told a crowded conference room filled with mainly white high-ranking university and NCAA officials about her grandmother and mother working on cotton fields in Mississippi.
"This would be even harder to say in the crowd, but I can say it here," she said in a hallway following the meeting. "It feels intentional. It feels like it was built this way intentionally. I can't move that from my thoughts.
"Should the NCAA be removed? Yes, because I don't trust it," she said. "You're not to be trusted because your intentions are clear. Let's call this group in the middle, let's call it something else. Let's put some real reform in there and call it something different and get rid of the current status quo because it's based on indentured servitude."
Carol Cartwright, president emeritus of Kent State and Bowling Green and a co-chair for the Knight Commission, said Carter "had a very strong point of view."
"We appreciate that," Cartwright said. "We provided a forum for her to express it. We have had similar personal and passionate point of views that have been expressed before."
Carter, whose son Wendell declared for the draft on his 19th birthday and is expected to be a high pick in the NBA draft, said there isn't enough support in place for most student-athletes to make the transition from college to the pros.
"You tell me it's about education, and we're giving you this fabulous education for your son to come to school here, so you're paying him with the education for his talent," she said. "If that's what you're paying him -- you're paying him with education -- why aren't you making sure he gets it? Why aren't you assigning somebody to him so if he is a one-and-done, why didn't you automatically assign him an academic advisor so that when he leaves he's got someone in his ear talking to him about the value of that education he left behind? Wendell doesn't have that problem because I'm going to be there like a jackhammer, but all of the other kids, the thing you pay them to come to your school and do, most of them don't ever get it."
Carter said paying the players won't solve the problem.
"If you pay the players and kept the system like it is, it would still destroy them -- it would just destroy them faster," she said. "That's not the solution. Don't get me wrong, it helps, but not without educating them on this process.
"The part that baffles me ... when you leave high school and prepare for college, and then going onto the pros, that whole process is not written down anywhere."