Barack Obama’s speech during the annual Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was under a strict gag order from the event’s coordinators. Naturally, full audio of his discussion made its way online at Reason.com, and the biggest takeaway, at least from a basketball perspective, was the former president’s take on the federal investigation into the NCAA.
Obama encouraged the NBA to restructure the G League as a true minor-league organization, routing prospects into a feeder program like the EuroLeague does, “so that the NCAA is not serving as a farm system for the NBA with a bunch of kids who are unpaid but are under enormous financial pressure.”
“It’s just not a sustainable way of doing business,” Obama said, via Reason.com. “Then when everybody acts shocked that some kid from extraordinarily poor circumstances who’s got 5, 10, 15 million dollars waiting for him is going to be circled by everybody in a context in which people are making billions of dollars, it’s not good.”
“That won’t solve all the problems,” Obama added, via Deadspin, “but what it will do is reduce the hypocrisy and the likelihood of people being like Claude Rains in ‘Casablanca,’ walking in and saying, ‘I’m shocked that there’s gambling going on in here!’ And these kids who generally don’t have a lot of resources are able to help their families.”
The NCAA is currently embroiled in a scandal involving financial benefits paid from former NBA agent Andy Miller and his associates at ASM Sports to dozens of college basketball players at many of the highest-profile Division I programs, as reported by Yahoo Sports reporters Pat Forde and Pete Thamel.
The alternative to college basketball Obama presented at the Sloan conference might solve the issue from the NBA’s side of the coin, but there would still be serious questions about the amateur status quo at the NCAA — an organization LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony called “corrupt” on Tuesday.
James offered essentially the same solution as Obama just days after the former president’s speech. “I know as the NBA we have to figure out a way that we can shore up our farm league,” he told reporters on Tuesday, “and if kids feel like they don’t want to be a part of that NCAA program, then we have something here for them to be able to jump back on and not have to worry about going overseas.”
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