This week the Compliance office at Central Florida dragged in the kicker on the football team, Donald De La Haye, and told him NCAA amateurism rules prevent him from making money on his YouTube channel, which has 50,000 subscribers.
On YouTube, that’s enough to make some nice coin, and given that De La Haye has earned those 50,000 subscribers with original content created by him, he has every right to earn money off them, like any other YouTube star.
He just won’t be eligible to play NCAA football anymore.
This is, as far as I can tell, completely unjust. I can see no good reason the NCAA should be able to stop a college football player from using his likeness to make money, on YouTube or anywhere else. Ed O’Bannon was the face of a famous antitrust case that sought (among other things) to legally establish that very point.
However, the fact remains that these are the rules of the NCAA, and each school has an office, the Compliance office, whose total responsibility is to see to it their school does not run afoul of those rules, as sometimes great harm is visited upon those schools that do.
So that’s what happened here. Someone whose whole job is to make sure their school doesn’t get in trouble with the NCAA did that job.
“Maybe it’s time for someone to actually try to fight back,” De La Haye told Sports Illustrated.
To the extent he can, De La Haye is. He made one video explaining his situation.
And he made another satirizing it.
Those are good videos that have gotten a lot of media attention, but that alone won’t be enough to change anything. That’s why I’m hoping Donald De La Haye tells the Compliance office at Central Florida to pound sand.
Barring an unlikely change of heart by the NCAA, changing the NCAA’s definition of amateurism (or discarding it altogether) probably is going to require the intervention of some high-level courts. O’Bannon tried to get the Supreme Court to hear his case, but was unsuccessful. It will be a difficult road, and I won’t blame the 20-year-old De La Haye if he just shuts down the channel, plays football, and moves on with his life.
He sounds a little daunted by the prospect of challenging all this.
“So far it feels like a David and Goliath type of fight,” he said. “I really don’t have any help right now. I’m just a 20-year-old.”
But De La Haye is not as alone in this as he probably feels like he is. If he wants to push the issue — the most obvious way would be to keep making the videos and sue the NCAA when it makes him ineligible — he’ll enjoy broad public support, and he may force the NCAA to again defend its position in an open courtroom, which if nothing else will be hilarious.
The rules preventing De La Haye from earning money on YouTube are unnecessary and harmful, and they should be changed. Through his YouTube channel De La Haye is demonstrating creativity, ingenuity, passion, work ethic, and technical skill. His school ought to be encouraging him, maybe even hiring him. Not reprimanding him.
It is easy to sit where I’m sitting and cast up somebody like De La Haye as a martyr, and that isn’t fair either. He’s torn by the decision the Compliance office is forcing him to make. If he takes up this fight, he’ll probably lose. Still, it’d be sweet to watch him try.