Donald De La Haye and the $40,000 Mistake

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: In the NFL, every time a catch/non-catch is ruled a catch/non-catch, people often get heated and forget that there are two debates to have; whether or not the rule is a dumb rule (it is), and whether or not the rule as it is written is being enforced correctly or fairly. I am not here to discuss the NCAA’s rules, only their application of them and De La Haye’s response to them.

Those of you who have been following the story need little refresher. Donald De La Haye, a kicker for the UCF Knights football team, was informed by the NCAA that he had to choose between his YouTube Channel and his football career, and big bad NCAA just doesn’t understand.

Well, the truth is a little more nuanced than that.

The actual edict that the NCAA brought down is that if he didn’t – both in past tense and future tense – demonetize any videos where he was profiting off of his status as  UCF football player, then the NCAA would likely rule him as ineligible to continue playing college football.

Again, the merits of the NCAA’s ruling about profiting on your own likeness when they already do to varying degrees is not what we are talking about here. The rule is what it is for the time being, so let’s go within that framework.

De La Haye has made numerous videos within the past year where he makes minimal effort to either shoot the video or edit the video in a way that masks over references to UCF, whether it’s footage from inside the training facility or locker room, or footage where he and others are wearing UCF gear.

This is the NCAA’s disagreement with De La Haye – because the videos he is earning money from feature obvious evidence that he is a student-athlete at UCF, he is therefore indirectly profiting from his likeness. Agree with the tule or not, this is pretty flatly a violation of the rule as it exists.

My initial sticking point here is De La Haye’s response in the situation. His YouTube channel currently consists of 62 videos, 24 of which have been posted within the last two months.

This means that in response to the NCAA’s informing him that he needed to either be much more careful with his decisions regarding filming, editing and monetization or risk losing his eligibility, he not only did not de-monetize any of his content, he increased his content production. He posted 32 videos in his channel’s first year, but his video today was his 24th in the last six weeks.

Forgive me for seeing this activity as anything other than him telling the NCAA “I don’t think this is fair, so fuck y’all imma do me.”

Well those of us in the real world know that there’s a whole lot of stuff in the world that isn’t fair, and simply choosing to rebel against something because you perceive that unfairness doesn’t mean your rebellion will benefit you.

Especially when your rebellion is so deliberate and brazen. One redditor suggested that he chose YouTube Channel over football eligibility. But did he? Here’s today’s video:

Donald in his dorm room, clearly in complete shock at the fact that his latest trip to the compliance office resulted in them informing him of the NCAA’s decision that he has been ruled ineligible. Here is where he has lost me.

There’s a lot of victim talk in here. There’s rationalization. There’s some misdirection.

  • “Every time I step in that compliance building I get nothing but bad news.”
  • “Just a young man trying to have fun and make a little money.”
  • “I did nothing wrong. I was just having innocent fun, but you know the NCAA monsters…”
  • “They wanted me to demonetize my videos… they want me to take down my videos.”

It’s easy to paint the NCAA as the demon here. But this is the real world; you don’t get to have the people who are in charge of you tell you to change, and tell you the consequences if you don’t, then sit around slack-jawed and stunned when they did what they told you they would do after you kept doing what they told you not to do.

People will try to distract with “this is unfair of the big NCAA to dump on this small athlete” or “he wasn’t making all that much money just leave him be.” I do not disagree with the fact that, at minimum, this situation should cause the NCAA to revisit this archaic rule and work to update it in the modern age of monetized media.

Nor do I disagree with a student being able to keep his meager earnings – De La Haye’s channel has earned a little over 5 million views in it’s 1+ year life, which is somewhere between $1,000 and $15,000 pre-tax dollars depending on what his CPM (dollars earned per thousand views) rate is, exactly.

But again, we are dealing with the NCAA’s application of the rule as it is written, and De La Haye’s response to this action. You aren’t “just having innocent fun and trying to make a little money.”

You are trying to develop your YouTube channel into a money-making venture. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have monetized your account.

You have videos of you with multiple NFL players – better hope they don’t sue you for making money off videos that contain their likeness without their approval.

This is a bit maddening for me that someone who is on track to graduate with a marketing degree is missing simple business concepts like this. You can’t launch a monetized YouTube channel as a Division I athlete and expect nothing to happen. You can’t tell your governing body “fuck you” and expect nothing to happen.

The worst part, perhaps, is that there are easy solutions. Do like other popular content producers and make a second channel. Have one channel with football content that isn’t monetized, and one that is monetized but has your more personal content. If possible, within the same channel create the same monetized/demonetized split.

Or better still, demonetize your channel completely and continue to produce the exact same content without issue while you continue to hustle and grind to build your subscriber base. Then in two years, you graduate from UCF, the rules no longer apply, and you can reactivate the monetization on a channel that has three or five or ten times as many subscribers as it does now.

Sure that would have cost you some short-term revenue, but the alternative cost you a $20,000 a year scholarship that was putting you through college and getting you a degree that directly impacts your future earnings potential in the real world. You can’t be so intently focused on the tree you’re hugging that they burn the forest down around you.

Maybe these only seem like simple solutions with an outsider’s perspective. But for a marketing major who had legal counsel on his side to simply respond with such highs and lows of “no I’m not changing a thing because this is unfair” followed by “I can’t believe they did what they said they would do” is just painfully short-sighted, especially when it could have been fairly easily avoided.

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