In June, the University of Central Florida gave junior kicker Donald De La Haye a choice: stop monetizing his athletics-related YouTube videos or be forced off the team. De La Haye picked YouTube, and on Monday, his school declared him ineligible.
BREAKING: #UCF kicker Donald De La Haye, who stated he won't demonetize his popular YouTube channel, has been ruled ineligible.— Ryan Bass (@Ry_Bass) July 31, 2017
When first faced with the ultimatum, De La Haye, who vlogs under the name "Deestroying" about everything from working out to the NBA to pranks, said the decision was one of the hardest of his life. "I haven’t slept much, haven’t eaten much," De La Haye told his fans. "I probably lost like 5 pounds, to be real with you."
The school tried to find a workable, if lackluster, compromise for De La Haye when it applied for an NCAA waiver, which was granted on July 14. That waiver "stated De La Haye could maintain his eligibility and continue to monetize videos that did not reference his status as a student-athlete or depict his football skill or ability," UCF said in a statement. "The waiver also allowed him to create videos that referenced his status as a student-athlete or depict his football skill or ability if they were posted to a non-monetized account."
The problem wasn’t that De La Haye was making or even profiting off of videos—the NCAA stated it has no issue with that. It was that De La Haye passed the minimum threshold for viewers and subscribers (his channel has more than 91,000) to monetize his videos, and was being paid for clips that UCF said took advantage of his status as a kicker on the football team. De La Haye rejected the agreement, choosing to continue accepting payments from YouTube for his work.
NCAA statement regarding Donald De La Haye. pic.twitter.com/0W2YCbEBrF— Inside the NCAA (@InsidetheNCAA) July 31, 2017
This, of course, isn’t the first time the NCAA or its member institutions have acted to cap a student-athlete’s earning potential. In 2002, Jeremy Bloom, an Olympic skier and University of Colorado wide receiver, sued the NCAA to keep the endorsement deals that made his mogul-hopping career possible. In 2010, Terrelle Pryor and four Ohio State teammates were suspended for five games for selling autographs, jerseys, and memorabilia, and in 2015, Olympic gold-winning gymnast Jordyn Wieber was relegated to UCLA’s team manager because she’d accepted sponsorships while competing in high school.
De La Haye doesn’t benefit from his status as an athlete as much as any of these examples. As a kicker who in two seasons tallied just one extra point and no field goals, he didn’t have endorsement opportunities or autograph signings to cash in on. De La Haye’s moneymaking endeavor required creativity and self-motivation, qualities most universities claim to be looking for.
His ineligibility is another in a long trail of instances where the governing bodies of college sports control how much autonomy players have over their own livelihoods. None of these athletes committed crimes—they were guilty only of earning fair market value for their work.
By all measurements, De La Haye’s choice was the best one for him. His future in football wasn’t a lucrative one; his future as a YouTube vlogger very well might be. It’s just disappointing he had to pick in the first place.