NBA/NCAA Revisits Modern Day Slavery Once Again

Derrick Rose is a hell of a basketball player.

Over the past four years he’s won two high school state championships, reached the NCAA title game and was named NBA rookie of the year.

Derrick Rose is, by all accounts, a good person.

He’s never gotten into any serious trouble and is known as a quiet, hardworking and unassuming guy. His teammates swear by him and the fans who know him best, in his hometown of Chicago, have flocked to him for the way he’s carried himself on and off the court.

Derrick Rose is the American dream.

Rising from humble South Side roots, at age 20 he’s already a self-made millionaire with the Bulls. Barring injury he should make more than $100 million by the time he’s 35. He’s building a reputation for charity back in his neighborhood.

Derrick Rose isn’t much of a student.

This is what the NCAA alleges. It claims he had someone stand in for him on his SAT because he couldn’t manage to make the relatively meager score he needed to play college ball at Memphis (his qualifying test was a “740 or 750,” according to a source with knowledge of the situation). Then, as the Chicago Sun-Times reported, one of his high school grades was changed from a “D” to a “C” in order to help his college eligibility chances.

For the record, Rose denied all of this to the NCAA although he hasn’t spoken publicly since the allegations broke last week.

The fact we know his score, the fact that Rose is dealing with embarrassing questions, the fact that the NBA has another young star wrapped in scandal and two universities are fretting about Saturday’s NCAA infractions hearing, is the latest testament to the NBA’s wrong and ridiculous 19-year-old age limit.

This isn’t to absolve the people involved, but the question shouldn’t just be did Derrick Rose cheat on his SAT?

It should be why the heck did he have to take it in the first place?

If Rose sang or danced or wrote computer code, even if he hit forehands or curveballs and not free throws, his acumen at standardized questions concerning probability, diction and critical reading wouldn’t matter.

They do in basketball because NBA commissioner David Stern wanted to control long-term labor costs and use college ball to market his young stars. In 2005, his league began requiring American players (but not Europeans) to be at least one year out of high school to be drafted.

That essentially sends them to college ball, where outdated and hypocritical amateurism and academic rules exist not because they have any moral basis, but so the NCAA can avoid billions in local and federal taxes.

As a result, young players have to play pretend before they can play ball. They have to pretend that amateurism rules can stop the wheels of capitalism. They have to pretend that an arbitrary thing like a minimum SAT score – which is never how the test was designed to be used – is a fair hurdle they need to clear to pursue their professional aspirations.

They have to pretend because the NCAA long ago figured out how to use its rule book as a tax haven.

And so into this round hole gets slammed the square peg of young players – Rose, O.J. Mayo and pretty much every other one-and-done star who lit up the college season before bolting to the NBA.

And, too often, they wind up with the NCAA slamming them for potentially not following rules that have no real world validity.

How is this helping Stern market his players?

Is it good to have Rose arrogantly ripped by the NCAA for failing “to deport himself in accordance with the high standards of honesty and sportsmanship normally associated with … intercollegiate athletics”?

Is it a positive to have rival fans mock him with “SAT, SAT” chants for years to come? Or have Mayo embroiled in his own NCAA investigation into payments from an agent while he did his mandated season at Southern California?

All this is doing is playing up the same outdated stereotypes of young, black players that Stern usually fights so hard against. He’s sold these guys out to shorten careers and, more importantly, career earnings.

Deep down he knows they should have the right to turn pro out of high school the way Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett and so many other stars did.

A semester or two in college isn’t the worst thing, but it also has nothing to do with playing basketball, being a good citizen or the ever-stated “protecting their futures in case of injury.”

There is no statistical evidence that players are better on or off the court after a stint on campus. There is, however, a century of win-at-all-cost proof by coaches and boosters that the NCAA’s “high standards of honesty and sportsmanship” are a complete joke.

For the sake of argument let’s assume Rose did have a high school friend stand in and take his SAT. He was desperate to qualify because the clear path to his dream and the fortune that comes with it was on the line. Any other route (Europe, junior college) is unproven.

So facing a system rigged against him, he instead rigged the system.

He kicked down the door, clearing an academic hurdle that bears no relation to his character as a person or his ability as a performer.

In Hollywood they make movies about people who do that.

In basketball, they vilify them and humiliate them, although not before they cash in on them.

We hold this standard almost exclusively for teenage basketball players, mostly African Americans, many from disadvantaged backgrounds and broken school systems (Rose’s Simeon Career Academy isn’t exactly Choate Rosemary Hall).

No one cared when Danica Patrick went pro as a race car driver at 16. No one tried to prevent Shawn Johnson from winning an Olympic gold at the same age or Miley Cyrus from making millions singing and acting with her dad even younger than that.

And no one ever required them to recognize analogies before doing so.

So why do we make Derrick Rose?


  1. Absolutely correct, the NCAA is the biggest pile of hypocrisy in the world. Why is it that you can turn pro out of high school in baseball? They don't make money off college baseball. College football and basketball are the money-winners for the powerful Division 1 schools. They make millions on the large bowl games. That's why they refuse to have a playoff system. They make millions off the NCAA basketball tournament. The Rose Bowl (USC/UCLA home field), Michigan, Tennessee stadium holds 100,000 plus. Being conservative - $50 ticket X 100,000 = $5 million. (Don't even mention parking and consessions) and Norte Dame, SEC, Big 12, Big 10 and Pac 10 have multi-million TV contracts. THERE IS NOTHING AMATEUR ABOUT THAT!

  2. Ok, while I hear your argument. I strongly disagree with how it is presented.

    College athletics in no shape of the imagination is designed to promote amatuerism. The primary purpose why universities and colleges exist is to educate people.

    Now I'm not loss on the fact that colleges have to make money to survive, but they are in the business of education. College athletics does help facilitate an enormous amount of revenue in to universities that keep most of them afloat. However that does not negate an individuals responsibility as an athlete to follow the rules.

    Now any person who accepts a scholarship from an institution of higher learning is placing themselves in a position to be subject to it rules. Let us not forget that we call them student-athletes. Most often people tend drop the student part and just refer to them as athletes. Any gifted player who has the dreams of playing ball professionally should accept whatever hoops and hurdles they must go through to make to the professional ranks. Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo, and any other person who falls into the category of being questionable in terms of their collegiate careers should be scrutinized in my opinion. It is easy to say they are unfairly being attacked, but really do you think that they made decisions to do what they have done in ignorance? Not to mention, there are plenty of student-athletes who do go to school and graduate. The Rose's, Mayo's and others cast a dark shadow over what they do. It is easy to say that these universities are making millions off of there talents and they should be able to profit too. I disagree. Why? I disagree because no one is forced to accept a college scholarship. So if you accept one then you know what you are signing up for. Second, I don't feel that it is a conspiracy to place a barrier to entry into the NBA. Quite frankly, I just don't feel that most who want to make the leap directy into the league have the skill set to have an immediate impact so developing thier talents in college or some place else is necessary. Thirdly, playing a professional sport is not a right, its a privilege and we need to see it as such. Why shouldn't playing professional sports have prerequisites? We are talking professional, right? I'm sure you want your doctor to have completed medical school before they are allowed to practice as a professional. All sports are not the same, and neither are all professions, so it is just fine that there may be different requirements to gain entry.

    Its a shame that we can become short-sighted on the fact that we want to look at things from a perspective that people who are the gatekeepers of the professions are on some mission to single out groups of people to keep them out.

    What people need to do is get back to stressing education and stop chasing the hoop dreams, field dreams or whatever dream takes you away from get enough education to pass basic test. Stop telling Derrick that its ok to not do well in school because he can play ball. Make him accountable for his academics as well as his athletics. I don't give athletes a pass just because they come from disadvantaged backgrounds, so do many people who go to college who aren't athletes.

    The system is not rigged against anyone in particuliar. We should stop saying that because it only allows us to make excuses for individuals that may be deficient. What we should do is to help them to thrive in a system or find the alternative paths to thier goals. Most often they do exist when you are talking about professional sports. We just don't encourage them because they require the same or more effort to achieve the same goal.

    In the end its all about decision. Sometimes your decision will come back and bite you in the butt if you don't make good ones.

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  4. Point taken and you'll notice if you read my blog that I've posted numerous blogs stating that athletes need to be STUDENTS first both in highschool and college...HOWEVER this blog relates to the fact that the prereqs only seem to be in the predominately black sports, not baseball, tennis, golf etc. etc. etc.

    For your reading pleasure - http://5strong.blogspot.com/2008/07/nba-vs-ncaa-my-own-personal-debate.html



  5. As a sports enthusiast I would never define sports by color. However I will indulge your color approach and say this. I clearly stated that all sports are not the same, and niether are all professions, so it is just fine to have different requirements to gain entry. All sports have some form of requirements to enter.

    What's really interesting is that players unions vote on the rules that govern the league. While intially these rules are drawn up by ownwers, it is the players who play the games that have a say in what changes are allowed to be made when it comes to their players agreements with the leagues. Players vote these changes because they don't want to see thier craft become diluted with weak talent. They want to be respected and reveered for what it is they do as professional athletes. For every Derrick Rose there is a Kwame Brown or a Deshaun Stevenson that hasn't faired so well right out of high school. Even with players that go the one-and-done route there just as many players who come out of school early and they work out because they are not ready for the NBA and they end up never being heard from again. Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Lebron James are all anomallies. They are not the norm when it comes to players right out of high school. As great of players as they are they all took 2-3 season to come into there own as players and beginning to have an impact as a player on the teams.

    Baseball: although players are drafted right out of high school most of these players end of in the minor league for years before getting called up to the major league. The minor league is nothing but a developmental league. Most college baseball teams are quivalent to what you see in the minor leagues. For the record, I would not consider baseball a sport dominated by African-Americans.

    Football: has a two year rule which permits players from entering the league. We all remember Maurice Clarret, and Mike Williams challenged this ruling in order to gain early entry into the league. Their attempts failed to change the rules and people shut up about talking about it. The rule exist for the sole purpose of development, which is a good thing. For the record, about 40% of the NFL is African-American which is a considerable amount for a league. Still i'm not going to call it a black sport.

    Tennis and Golf are individual sports so it isn't fair to place them in the category with teams sports. However, golf does require all players to qualify to play on the tour and maintain a certain record in order to continue to play on tour.

    It really doesn't matter what sport it is for me. I just think the same way we are taught to respect the law and abide by it we should teach/train young athletes to do the same when it comes to the rules. You don't have to like it, but you should respect them if you want to be a part of that group.

    The NBA is probably comprised of maybe 60% African American players. Hence I understand why someone would call it a call black sport. The NBA only instituted the college requirement 5 years ago. Before then there was no rule and really there wasn't a need for it. For years players were content to accept a college scholarship and refine thier skills at the college level. However you start looking at owners becoming more greedy and you have a need to change the way business is done. There is no reason why a 7 year old should be scouted by shoe companies or AAU teams in the hopes of grooming them into the next big pro superstar. You can't blame a kid for wanting to make a million dollar paycheck when you dangle it in front of his face from the time he can get up and play on an organized team. You also have to realize that a kid is more impressionable and will make poor decisions just to get to that goal if he/she doesn't have good guidance along the way. It's wrong, just plain wrong.

  6. Okay, I digress....well except for one point. I was actually referring to baseball as an non-African American Sport.

    Thanks for your comments.