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College Football Player Who Lost Scholarship Over YouTube Videos Can Sue School, Court Rules

Donald De La Haye says the University of Central Florida violated his First Amendment rights.

Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire DBA/Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire/NewscomLeslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire DBA/Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire/NewscomA federal court has ruled that Donald De La Haye, a former kicker for the University of Central Florida Golden Knights who lost his scholarship and his place on the football team after making some money off a popular YouTube account, can sue his former school on First Amendment grounds.

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida rejected the university's attempt to dismiss De La Haye's lawsuit, which will now proceed to the merits of De La Hoye's free speech claims.

"We hope that today's decision denying UCF's attempt to dismiss this case will be a step toward protecting Donald's rights and ensuring all college student-athletes' free speech rights are protected," says Jon Riches of the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, a free market think tank and legal center that's representing De La Hoye.

On his "Deestroying" account on YouTube, De La Hoye posted videos of his daily routines and workouts, along with funny moments with friends and teammates. Some clips—like one where he destroyed a flat-screen TV by kicking it off the top floor of a parking garage—are just weirdly entertaining. The videos have quite a following: De La Haye has more than 350,000 subscribers, enough to earn money from the advertisements YouTube allows on high-end accounts. According to SocialBlade.com, a website that assesses the potential value of social media accounts, he could earn somewhere between $2,000 and $31,000 a month.

The problem isn't the content of the videos. It's the fact that he made money off them. Per National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules, student-athletes lose their amateur status if they earn any money off their sports while attending school. Last July, the NCAA told the school that De La Haye would be ineligible to play college football unless he stopped making videos about the game. He would have been allowed to make videos about other topics—videos that would likely get fewer views and earn him less advertising revenue.

After De La Haye decided not to agree to those terms, the team dismissed him and the school revoked his scholarship. He was given 72 hours to remove himself and all his belongings from university housing. With no where else to turn, he ended up living with a friend and sleeping on a sofa.

"It's really tough," De La Haye said in a video from last July, shortly after he learned that his scholarship would be revoked. "I'm not doing anything wrong. I'm not making money illegally. I'm not selling dope. I'm not kidnapping people or robbing people. I'm not selling my autographs for money. I'm not sitting here getting Nike checks and Nike deals and all these sponsorships. I'm literally filming stuff. I'm sitting here, editing things on my computer for hours and developing my own brand. I put in the work, and I'm not allowed to get any benefits from the work."

This week's court ruling is an encouraging sign, says Robert Henneke, general counsel for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which is also involved in De La Hoye's lawsuit. "Students like Donald don't check their constitutional rights at the gates to a public university simply because they are athletically gifted," Henneke says.

Photo Credit: Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire DBA/Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire/Newscom

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  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Why sleep on a friend's couch if he's making money off the videos?

    Actually I am curious. That range of $2000-$31000 is pretty vague. Can anyone come up with a better estimate, or explain why that one is so wide?

  • Cynical Asshole||

    I assume there's a fairly large amount of variation in ad revenue from one month to the next based on the number of views that his videos get? I'm not sure though.

  • Echo Chamber||

    "he could earn somewhere between $2,000 and $31,000 a month", depending upon where he falls on the progressive stack hierarchy.

  • Cathy L||

    Uhhhhhhhhh

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    It takes time to find an apartment. He was given 72 hours to remove himself from campus.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Very important does?

  • IceTrey||

    What an idiot. Acquiesce to the demands while your lawsuit makes its way through the courts. Now he has nothing.

  • croaker||

    Now he can show loss. Acquiescing to demands lessens the financial damage he will ultimately receive. Granted the loss of First Amendment rights is a big tickets, but now he can also monetize the loss of scholarship and future earnings in professional football.

  • Jerryskids||

    The NCAA doesn't like anybody muscling in on their racket of exploiting student afletes, even the student afletes themselves. There are appearances to maintain if they're going to keep up the charade that this is all about the love of the sport and in no way sullied by filthy lucre. That filthy, naughty, nasty lucre.

  • Echo Chamber||

    Full ride scholarships used to be a trifle. Now? Nice work if you can get it.
    Don't forget to buckle up that chin strap

  • 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed||

    Hey! A story about the national champs!

    Anyway, the NCAA looks like the real villain here.

  • I can't even||

    Undefeated National Champions

    According to all the signs. I was there a few weeks ago.

  • Bubba Jones||

    If they don't like the rules by which National Champions are determined, they should start their own league.

  • I can't even||

    I somebody doesn't like their signs, they can go undefeated. Or maybe schedule a game against UCF instead of an FCS patsy.

  • Citizen X||

    College sports is far too important to sully with creative entrepreneurship!

  • ||

    C'mon Eric...at least reference the anti-trust cases. This 1A stuff ain't gonna do shit to crush the NCAA monopoly.

    Should it be crushed by the Government? I'm not educated in the NCAA enough to know how much of their monopoly is Government supported. But I'd sure like to see it crushed.

  • Rhywun||

    This 1A stuff ain't gonna do shit to crush the NCAA monopoly.


    Not as long as college sports is successfully pushed as something that's "American as apple pie", "looking out for the kids' future", and similar happy horseshit I hear on sports channels whenever this topic comes up.

  • MollyGodiva||

    If universities have legal liability when they violate the constitution because the NCAA tells them to then they will have incentive to change the NCAA rules.

  • ||

    Monetizing speech is only a fractional part of what's possible for college players to capitalize on. This 1A stuff will simply tweak NCAA policies. They won't cause the need seismic shift (or more justly, total collapse).

  • perlchpr||

    How is this a 1A issue?

    The NCAA told the University "Don can't play if he keeps making these videos". The University had given him the scholarship to play. They gave him the option of not making the videos. He chose not to. They revoked the scholarship they had given him to do something he was no longer going to be able to do.

    At what point was the government involved?

  • BYODB||

    This is my question as well. They didn't kick him out of school from what I can see, it's more like he suddenly could no longer afford to go any longer after he lost his ride.

    It seems to me that the only group he should be allowed to sue, if any, is the NCAA.

  • Don't look at me.||

    He makes 31k a month. Put his own ass through school and forget the stupid games.

  • Cathy L||

    He makes 31k a month.

    He almost certainly doesn't. That's a completely bs number that isn't even posted anymore at the linked site.

  • Don't look at me.||

    Ok, it's 2k a month to 31k a month according to the story above. Still plenty you pedantic ass.

  • BYODB||

    Personally I agree, even while I doubt he made that much. There was no rule saying he couldn't just continue paying his way forward unless they actually did kick him out of school which...doesn't seem to be the case but also isn't super clear in the article.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Public University would be my guess.

  • Rhywun||

    Yeah, I'm not seeing it either. He getting paid to play by the rules set out for him. Like others said, it's the de facto NCAA monopoly over football that's the problem.

  • MollyGodiva||

    The public college (which is bound by the first amendment) may not punish students for any protected speech. Making YouTube videos for profit is very protected. The fact that it is an NCAA rule is irrelevant.

  • perlchpr||

    OK, explain to me how it is a "punishment" to cease paying someone for a job they are no longer performing.

  • MollyGodiva||

    They cut the guys scholarship because of his videos.

  • perlchpr||

    They cut his scholarship because he was no longer going to be playing football for them.

    He was no longer going to be playing football because the NCAA said he wasn't.

    Are you understanding how this worked, yet?

  • I can't even||

    I assume that full scholarship came with some kind of contractual agreement which included not violating NCAA rules. When he was informed that he was violating those rules, he should have been very careful given the value of that scholarship.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    According to SocialBlade.com, a website that assesses the potential value of social media accounts, he could earn somewhere between $2,000 and $31,000 a month.

    Damn, I never realized you could make that kind of money off of youtube. Up to $31,000 a month? I'm gonna go get a nice video camera and some video editing software...

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    And then get 1/3 of a million followers watching you. That's the hard part.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Yeah, and unfortunately I really don't have anything to say/ do that that many people would be interested in watching youtube videos of.

  • Citizen X||

    Like that's stopped any vlogger ever.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Like I said, no one would want to watch that.

  • BYODB||

    This story does sort of seem to be an infringement on his 1st amendment rights, don't get me wrong, but why can't the college revoke his free money and education ride because he violated the rules of his sports contract?


    I'm assuming they didn't 'kick him out of school' but rather 'he could no longer afford to go to school after losing his free money sports ride' which seems like an important difference to me.

  • MollyGodiva||

    The university is bound by the first amendment any may not punish students for protected speech. Signing a contract with the NCAA is not a way to get around the constitution.

  • I can't even||

    Say it the other way. Is the Constitution a way to get around contracts?

    If I sign an employment contract that includes non-disclosure of sensitive information - can I go ahead and post sensitive company information on YouTube and still expect them to pay me?

    He entered into a contractual agreement. He plays football for the school and obeys the rules. In return he gets room, board, and free education. Sounds like a good deal, too bad he violated the contract.

  • Don't look at me.||

    The 1st keeps the government from coming down on you for speech, not your employer. He is an idiot for not following the contract, particularly after having been warned.

  • Nardz||

    It's not punishment to revoke a scholarship. It can be, but isn't necessarily. Happens all the time. For example, when a better player comes along. College football teams have a cap on scholarship players (I think it's 80 or so total). He had a scholarship to play football and he's not eligible to play football, hence no scholarship.
    He can play and post videos unrelated, or he can not play and post kicking videos.
    No problem objecting to the rules as set up, but calling it a 1a violation is idiotic.

  • BYODB||

    They didn't punish the kid for saying anything in particular, they removed his full ride scholarship because he was no longer eligible to play sports and the scholarship required him to continue being eligible.

    Having failed to meet the eligibility requirements of the NCAA the school obviously was going to remove the scholarship based on that eligibility.

    You can expect this kid to lose this case, and lose hard. He should have gone after the NCAA, which notably has much deeper pockets and is literally the entity calling the shots here.

    Requiring a University to continue to pay out a scholarship even once the terms of that scholarship are violated is a pretty retarded notion. All that will do is ensure no scholarship are offered. Congrats?

    Hell, the kid could have simply declined the income from his youtube channel and continued saying or doing whatever he wanted. The payment was the issue, not the speech.

    I'm not saying I necessarily like this logic, but the kid has no case. Personally I think the NCAA probably fucked up their ruling in the first place, but you'll note no one is suggesting that they be held accountable for that.

  • MollyGodiva||

    Except the NCAA controlled by the member universities, who set the rules collectively. Thus the universities are responsible.

  • Social Justice is neither||

    The man signed a contract to perform a service (play football) for the university and they were paying him (tuition, room & board, tutors etc) for that service. He chose to engage in activities that made him ineligible to perform the service and chose to not cease those activities when given the option of revenue streams.

    You go to work, refuse to do anything of value to your employer and see how long they cheerfully continue to employ you.

  • Juice||

    You corksuckers have violated my fargin rights!

  • Atlas Slugged||

    Johnny Dangerously is dangerously underrated. You, good Sir, made my day.

  • Eddy||

    How about making sports players into employees of the university with free access to the classes and other academic resources, either while they're playing or after their playing contract is over?

  • ghdgeeky||

    I don't understand why it happened to the student; it's really not fair; ghd sports

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