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Whore Next Door: Love and Basketball - By - November 4, 2015 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Whore Next Door: Love and Basketball

Picture it: a crowded college dorm party on a sticky summer evening. Girls. Sex. Booze. The bass bumps from the stereo as sweaty bodies grind together. Most of the party attendees are up-and-coming basketball stars, barely out of high school: handsome, fit, young boys keen to turn their hoop dreams into million-dollar NBA careers. But the first stop is four years of indentured servitude in the world ofcollege sports.

Although the NCAA makes billions of dollars each year off the athletes who play for its teams, college athletes themselves are unpaid. The Seattle Times recently reported that many are without medical insurance, living below the poverty line.

Supporters of the NCAA policy insist that keeping college athletes at the amateur level preserves the integrity of the game, and players are compensated with perks like scholarships, academic privileges, and — at the University of Louisville — wild sex parties sponsored by the recruiters.

Katina Powell, a former sex worker and madam, claims that former University of Louisville Cardinals staffer Andre McGee hired her and several other women to have sex with their recruits as part of the courtship process. In her new book, Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen, Powell alleges that her business relationship with the college ran from 2010 until 2014, and although the college and McGee deny everything, a private investigator hired by the school has confirmed that McGee and Powell did have some kind of relationship.

Powell recently appeared on The View accompanied by her two daughters, Lindsay and Rod Ni, who she hired to work these college basketball sex parties (once they were of age).

When one of the hosts, Paula Faris, asked Powell why she would allow her daughters to be involved in such an operation, Powell replied that they pursued the work on their own because the parties were fun. Former Disney star Raven-Symoné concurred, saying, “Sounds like fun, sounds like a normal party.” While the idea that the oldest profession might be “fun” caused Faris's eyes to bug out, she went on to divulge that, according to her husband — John Krueger, who participated in college sports recruiting in the past — using prostitution as a tactic to woo new talent is nothing new.

Powell's attorney, Larry Wilder, was also there to assure viewers that in Kentucky, selling sex is a Class A misdemeanor. Additionally, the statute of limitations for prosecution is only one year, ensuring that Powell and her daughters are off the hook.

“The bigger potential crime would be promoting prostitution, which is a Class D Felony,” Wilder told The View. “But our position is that if they are going to prosecute Ms. Powell, then they need to prosecute Mr. McGee [the staffer who allegedly paid for the prostitutes] as well.”

Powell has faced criticism for her whistleblowing allegations, and reporters are keen to point out her entrepreneurial motivations. While she concedes that her book is primarily a business venture, she told the hosts of The View that it is also an attempt to get people thinking about the real injustices of the world, rather than the moral judgments placed on her former profession.

The NCAA exploits the labor of the young athletes, earning billions of dollars off of their bodies. These athletes risk lifelong injury with no guarantee of attaining that pro-basketball dream: Less than 1 percent of college ballers go onto an NBA career.

Bottom line: Exploited labor is wrong, whether it's athletic, domestic, or sexual.

The U.N. defines human trafficking as the transport of persons via force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of exploited labor. Using booze and sex to convince 17-year-old boys to play basketball for free at an out-of-state school that will profit off their labor for the next four years sounds a little too close to that UN definition for my taste.

America criminalizes sex workers, arresting hundreds of people just last month in the name of human trafficking as part of the FBI's annual nationwide sting, Operation Cross Country.

And yet this country turns a blind eye to the labor exploitation of young men and women in college sports. It's not necessarily tragedy, but it's certainly hypocrisy.