I bumped into my fellow Queens finest head Kenny “Jet” Smith at the CBS and Turner Sports NCAA Media Day on Tuesday at the Hilton in Manhattan. He joins a legion of other former players and current superstars who believe that the NCAA’s outdated, exploitative and inflexible rules are at the root of all college scandals involving boosters, agents and outside infiltrators paying players to secure their future business or on behalf of a university recruiter.
Smith has a rare global platform as he and his TNT Inside the NBA team of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Shaquille O’Neal, are given mega face time on TNT’s NBA coverage and allowed to freely express themselves.
Shaq and Barkley stay talking trash to each other. https://t.co/11kLtjTenn
Smith wasn’t pulling any punches in calling out the NCAA as the culprit in the recent FBI probe into more than 20 major Division-1 hoops schools for recruiting violations and impermissible benefits given to players and their families.
“Its a predatorial environment that the NCAA’s rules have created that make people feel undervalued. Then that leads to an environment where you have 17,18 and 19 year-olds, many from underserved backgrounds, being almost preyed upon by 50-year-old men and taking money to illegally. Its a predatorial environment thats always going to lose.
Theres value in sneaker deals and the like that the players arent being rewarded for. We are stuck in a system, when the value of an education has changed. The value of basketball has changed over the past 20 years and the NCAA hasnt caught up.
For instance, I cant tell my son to be in the house at 8pm when he’s 17-years old. Its different when hes nine. Things change. You have to adjust. You cant even have a job as a student-athlete. Let’s say I was a great actor. I’d have to give up my scholarship because I have the ability to make money acting.”
So what’s at the root of this injustice?
“The first part is looking at the predatorial environment,” Smith said. “The rules are creating that environment. Because you wont pay guys, then Im going to do this If Im somebody that doesnt have moral fiber. Im going to prey on a 17-year-old, when Im a 50-year-old man. If that was anything other than sport, people would go crazy over it.
The second part of the reconstructive process is that there should be some kind of representation for student-athletes in high school and college. It’s basically taxation without representation. They’re making rules for a 17-year-old coming in and he’s not represented there by anyone. the NCAA is basically asking me to give back money. To ask someone to give back money or turn down potential earnings is totally against our capitalistic nature. That’s why every pro sport has a union which provides them with representation so that they have I have a negotiator in place before you make rules that I have to abide by. It just doesn’t make any sense.
I think there are 4,600 rules in the NCAA guideline book and none of them were represented by or discussed with those kids.”