Mom of former Duke star Wendell Carter says NCAA treats athletes like 'piece of property'

Ex-Duke star Wendell Carter Jr.’s mom blasts college basketball system, compares it to slavery and prison

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 the Knight Commission.
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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 the Knight Commission.

With her son having moved into the professional basketball world free from NCAA rules, the mother of former Duke basketball player Wendell Carter Jr. was open about her disdain for college basketball.

In a Sports Illustrated story published online Monday, Kylia Carter described the NCAA's amateurism structure as exploitative while saying its restrictive structure is why her son needed to leave Duke after his freshman season.

“They treat you like a piece of property. Period. Point blank. They take things away from you, they talk bad to you, they’re disrespectful to you,” Kylia Carter is quoted as saying during her son's pre-draft party last week. “The act of getting paid is not what makes a difference, the difference is that in the NBA [players] are respected in the role that they’re in. Whatever it is they’re doing, they have a voice and they’re respected. In college, you have no voice. It’s a system set up that they drop you in and tell you what to do — you be a rebounder, shot-blocker, you take all the shots, nobody else can shoot. My child never got to show his full set of skills. He never got to do that.”

Wendell Carter started all 37 games last season for Duke, helping the Blue Devils to a 29-8 record. Duke lost 85-81 in overtime to Kansas in the Midwest Regional final, one win short of the Final Four. A second-team all-ACC selection, the 6-10 Carter averaged 13.5 points and 9.1 rebounds.

The Chicago Bulls selected Carter with the No. 7 overall pick in the first round of last Thursday's NBA Draft.

In the Sports Illustrated story, Carter said he was initially upset when Marvin Bagley III graduated from high school a year early and joined Duke last August. The 6-10 Bagley became Duke's top player, averaging 21.1 points and 11.1 rebounds last season to become the ACC player of the year.

Sacramento selected Bagley with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.

Carter did say that he and Bagley grew close last season and remain friends.

"“That’s my boy,” Carter said.

But in an story posted on Tuesday, Kylia Carter described the family's anger at Bagley's late arrival to Duke last season.

“My initial reaction, I was pissed," Kylia Carter said. "And it wasn't pissed because Marvin was coming. To be honest, I felt like that was information that was kept from us. It felt (shady), it felt like my baby was gonna get kicked to the curb. I felt like all of that.”

In the same story, Wendell Carter, Sr., said he told his son to just "go play ball." But he also admitted not being happy with Bagley arriving and becoming Duke's focal point over his son.

“I tell people. People make promises they can't keep. It didn't bother me,” Wendell Sr. said. “I was concerned because I felt like we were lied to. ‘Oh, Wendell's gonna be the man’ and then the rug was pulled from under us.”

Kylia Carter made headlines last spring when she equated college basketball to slavery and the prison system because she sees it as older white men benefiting from the talents of young black men. She spoke not only from Wendell's experience, but from her experience playing college basketball at Mississippi.

“It was my mom, you know, everybody’s entitled to their own opinion,” Wendell Carter said. “She doesn’t have a problem letting people know how she really feels. And, frankly, what she was saying I agree with a lot. Some people may have misunderstood her — which I think is their problem, not so much her problem.”

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