It’s been a crazy week for Kylia Carter, the mother of former Duke basketball star and potential NBA Draft Lottery pick Wendell Carter Jr.
On Monday, she was a panelist during a meeting of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics in Washington, D.C.
And in her opening remarks, she kept it all the way real by equating how the system of not paying collegiate athletes is similar to slavery and prison.
All week her words have been dissected, and they’ve either received praise or been criticized.
“This is new for me,” she told the New York Daily News. “And it’s interesting how much my phone is ringing.”
“I didn’t make the statement for attention,” she continued. “I wanted to give an honest response and a truthful response. And that’s what I felt like the commission needed to know.”
“I meant what I said.”
And for those of you who might have missed it, this is what Carter said according to USA Today Sports.
“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.”
“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.
“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 benefits. 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.”
The truth hurts because it stings.
Honesty in its purest form has a way of holding a mirror up to expose and magnifies our biggest flaws.
This country was built off unpaid labor through slavery. And a similar system is still in place through our prison system and mass incarceration.
This past year, it was reported that the NCAA, a non-profit organization, made a billion dollars in revenue. Which means that everyone involved in collegiate athletics is somehow getting paid, except the people who are actually doing the work that generates all this money, the student-athletes.
Kylia Carter is right.
Collegiate athletics are kind of structured like slavery and our prison system, and Carter has first-hand experience given that she played basketball at the University of Mississippi during the late ’80s.
“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,” Carter explained to USA Today Sports after speaking on the panel.
This past college basketball season was one that the Carter family will never forget, and it has little to do with anything that happened on a basketball court.
In February, Carter had to explain herself after her son’s name was among a list of players and families that showed up on an expense report from Christian Dawkins, an ASM sports agency associate who was arrested in connection with the FBI’s corruption case in college basketball.
The legal lunch meeting allegedly took place at a Longhorn Restaurant in 2016 when her son was a high school junior. The expense report showed that the lunch was $106.36, but it never indicated who paid for it. Carter called Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski to explain what happened, and after the school met with its compliance staff they determined that her son had no eligibility issues.
In March, Carter told William C. Rhoden of ESPN’s The Undefeated that, “If she had her way, Wendell would never have been at Duke, or at any college, to begin with. He would already have been in the NBA.”
By April, she’d had a change of heart.
“After the season happened, and I started thinking about it. I was like, ‘Wait a minute. If you came back, it would only make you a better person,” she told The Undefeated. “It would improve your quality of life. It would improve your relationships. It would be about you. It wouldn’t be about basketball. So this is really something to think about.”
“Of course, as a mom, I started thinking about it, so I told him: I want you to come back.”
To some, it might seem like Carter can’t make up her mind.
But as I watched, all I saw was a mother who just wants the best for her son. Which is why I asked her if my assumptions were correct.
“That is absolutely, positively, the simple truth,” she told me. “I get so tripped out when people make all these big deals about what I do and say because I’m doing no more than the woman that’s at a parent meeting for her child at school.”
Kylia Carter is bold, fearless and a parent that cares.
All three of those characteristics were on display this past week. And as she celebrates Mother’s Day, I hope that her son appreciates all that she’s done.
She took the heat for telling the truth about an archaic and unjust system, in hopes that future mothers and sons won’t have to go through what she just experienced.