Last week, when ESPN aired the Fab Five documentary, several members of the iconic Michigan team made it clear they weren’t the biggest fans of Duke when they were in school. Former player (and current ESPN analyst) Jalen Rose made comments that Duke only recruits “Uncle Toms” and “black players from polished families.”
Rose’s comments were extremely controversial. But they also ignited an extremely interesting and important discussion about Duke, their recruiting practices, and the black athletes that play for them.
In the interest of shedding light on how (at least one) of Duke’s black players felt about the school, it’s important to read this email exchange, which originally surfaced in 2007, between Elton Brand and a Duke student named Jennifer Taylor. The emails were written after Brand left Duke after his sophomore year (not a common decision back then). He reportedly admitted to writing his response.
From: Taylor, Jennifer
Sent: Friday, April 16, 1999 2:55 PM
To: Brand, Elton
Subject: Leaving Duke
I graduated from Duke last May and just wanted to express my disgust for your decision to leave the Duke program after only two years. As an alum, not only do I hold the school in high regard, but the basketball program as well, especially since both have deservedly garnered such a great deal of respect for their accomplishments.
As part of our basketball program, you represent Duke as a whole. We are first and foremost an academic school, you clearly did not belong at Duke in the first place if this was the extent of your commitment to Duke and a college education in general. You have not only insulted the current students who are putting in four years at a school they love, but also the thousands of alumni who have realized the value of a Duke education and what an honor and privilege it was to be there for four years.
If you do not realize the opportunity you has infront of you to play for Coach K and at the same time attain a Duke diploma, then that is certainly your loss. I just wish that you has spared us the notion that you were continuing in the tradition of being a Duke student-athlete, in emphasizing excellence in both academics and athletics. You will not be considered part of the Duke family, in my mind as well as many others. You have by no means proved yourself worthy of that title.
From: Elton Tyron Brand
Sent: Sunday, April 25, 1999 8:05 PM
To: Taylor, Jennifer
Subject: Re: Leaving Duke
Thank you very much, for reminding me of the reason why I left Duke. People like you can not and will not ever understand my situation. I’m sure daddy worked very hard to send your rich self to college. While real people struggle. I would also like to extend an invitation for you not to waste your or my time ever agin. Never being considered a part of your posh group of yuppies really hurts me to the heart. Yeah, right. Because I don’t care about you or your alumni.
Elton Brand #42 NBA
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