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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.

Carter made her remarks during a stunning opening statement as a panelist for a meeting of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. After waiting through remarks of five other speakers, including Saint 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 a system in which she referenced her own recruitment and career as a 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."

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 be 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.

The Knight Commission 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 a 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.

In an interview after her appearance, Carter said she felt emboldened because many of the Rice Commission's reforms were centered around preservation of much of the NCAA's current model, including its model for compensating athletes.

"You want to 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."

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May 8, 2018


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