Freedom of Speech, or corporate speech?

Written by: Angela Radesic

The NCAA is frequently in the middle of some pretty heated debates concerning their players and the game itself. Today I want to talk about one controversy that happened a while back.

In June of 2017, NCAA kicker for the University of Central Florida, Donald De La Haye was forced to choose between two of his favorite hobbies, making YouTube videos and kicking for UCF. It came to the UCF’s attention in early June that De La Haye may have been in some hot water concerning his video blog channel and NCAA regulations.

De La Haye created his YouTube channel to talk about his life as a UCF kicker and full-time college student. In a New York Times article, it was stated that, “N.C.A.A. rules prohibit student-athletes from profiting from their likeness or status as student-athletes because doing so violates principles of amateurism.”

The problem comes into play when De La Haye began making money off the ads that were displaying on his YouTube channel. With his YouTube channel being about his life as a student and UCF kicker, the income he was making from ad revenue was on behalf of his “likeness” or his name.

I agree with the actions taken by both the NCAA and UCF to make De La Haye choose between UCF and his YouTube career, but I see where the uproar came from. Today’s society revolves around technology, whether that be video, audio or social media. While YouTube and video blogging (vlogging) is all the hype right now, the NCAA has restrictions against making a profit off of a player’s own name. All of these rules are made clear to each player as they sign on to be an ‘employee’ of the NCAA.

 

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Image: url

For De La Haye and his fans, this choice he was being forced to make was an issue with First Amendment rights which I get, BUT he knew the rules signing on to, and he made the choice to sign taking away all of his chances to make a profit off of his name as an amateur sports player.

Throughout my public relations law classes, we are taught that corporate speech is when you work for a corporation you are viewed as a “fictitious citizen” with certain first and fourteenth amendment rights. De La Haye represents both the NCAA and UCF, and as an “employee” for these organizations there are strict regulations concerning making a profit off of his or her own name. Creating a YouTube channel to vlog about your life as a student and NCAA player fits into these categories and puts De La Haye in the wrong.

The NCAA does not make these regulations for their own good, but rather to stay true to their organization’s reason for founding. The NCAA is all about amateur sports, and if players were to make a profit off of their name and start receiving funds because of it, the NCAA would not be about the sports itself anymore, but rather about the money and publicity of their players.

In this USA Today article it states, “The problem here is that the NCAA has built an entire brand on the theme that ‘most of us will go pro in something other than sports.’ And yet, when someone has the audacity to get a head start on that while in college, we have to strain it through so many bylaws and compliance interpretations that a kid at the end of a roster in the American Athletic Conference has to make a choice between his football scholarship and his slightly lucrative hobby.”

While this statement is true speaking in terms of what the NCAA stands for in its brand, the NCAA itself never made the first move to take action in this case, UCF did. Also, the school and the NCAA never required De La Haye to delete his account all together, just to stop accepting a monetary amount for his success. In the end, De La Haye chose Youtube over his NCAA kicking career.

Overall, I think this situation was resolved without too big of an uproar, but I am standing with UCF on this one because after all, he agreed to the terms of the contract when signing.

What do you think about this situation? Do you think the NCAA and UCF were right about their judgement? Do you think De La Haye should be able to make a profit off of his own name? Let me know in the comments below!

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