The NCAA is fond of saying that most of its nearly four hundred thousand athletes “will go pro in something other than sports.” Given that a recent study found the slogan was true for more than 99 percent of student-athletes, it’s a helpful perspective for those young adults to keep in mind.
Apparently, though, it only applies once your playing career is at an end. Try to start going pro in something else while on scholarship and you’ve crossed an unforgivable line.
Donald De La Haye recently learned that lesson the hard way. As the backup kicker for a relatively unheralded program, it’s long been clear that De La Haye’s post-college career was unlikely to include football. To his credit, he made the most of his time on campus by becoming something of a YouTube star.
His channel had just over sixty thousand subscribers in June of this year—not enough to register far outside of Florida, but enough to warrant a relatively small paycheck from the video service. Unfortunately for De La Haye, the NCAA deemed his success a violation of their rules since part of the draw was that he played scholarship football at a Division 1 program.
Consequently, they told the backup kicker that if he wanted to continue doing both, he’d have to demonetize and remove any reference to his status as a student-athlete in both future videos and those he’s already made. Essentially, he can’t use his own name or status as a student-athlete to make money while under scholarship (even though the NCAA makes billions each year by doing just that). De La Haye chose YouTube and has since been kicked off the UCF football team for doing so.
What makes De La Haye’s story interesting is not so much the NCAA’s ruling or his decision to choose YouTube over football. Rather, a more pertinent aspect is that the NCAA’s ultimatum is far more likely to bring about the outcome they are trying to avoid than if they’d left De La Haye alone.
The NCAA has long feared creating a system in which players making money off their names could somehow upset a competitive balance that never really existed in the first place. Yet, by making the backup kicker national news, they’ve given those who oppose that agenda the perfect example of why many argue their stance is hypocritical. While there’s something to be said for not establishing precedents, choosing your battles is often a more effective strategy in the long run.
As Christians, that’s a truth we often forget. There are times where it is vital to take whatever heat comes from standing for biblical values and the life to which Christ has called us. Some hills really are worth dying on. But we often fail to practice the kind of discernment Jesus demonstrated throughout his ministry.
A primary reason Jesus spoke in parables, for example, is that he knew every word was being critically examined by those who wished to trap him (Matthew 13:10–17). He still spoke plainly when necessary but carefully picked his battles to keep the focus on that which mattered most instead of the trivial matters the Pharisees often used to try and trip him up.
While relatively few in our culture are actively seeking to undermine our witness like the opponents Jesus faced, we could all benefit from more caution and discernment with those around us. If we let God, rather than our egos or self-righteousness, pick our battles, the kingdom will benefit greatly.
Will you give the Lord that freedom in your life today?