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Home Sport Viral former UCLA star Katelyn Ohashi slams NCAA rules

Viral former UCLA star Katelyn Ohashi slams NCAA rules

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Michelle R. Martinelli, For The Win
Published 9:48 a.m. ET Oct. 9, 2019 | Updated 9:55 a.m. ET Oct. 9, 2019

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Katelyn Ohashi skyrocketed into the realm of internet fame — and beyond — when a video of her floor exercise routine from January went viral after she earned a perfect 10.

The video posted on Twitter by UCLA gymnastics currently has almost 44 million views, and fans couldn’t get enough of her as she finished her senior season with the Bruins. Although she had another perfect-10 performance go viral the previous year, it wasn’t quite like during her 2019 season. Her media appearances were abundant, ranging from Good Morning America to recently being part of ESPN’s 2019 Body Issue.

But, of course, as a student-athlete, she couldn’t profit financially from her meteoric rise. So in a video published Wednesday in the New York Times titled, Everyone Made Money Off My N.C.A.A. Career, Except Me , Ohashi slammed the NCAA for holding her and other athletes in a similar position back.

Speaking about her overnight internet fame, Ohashi said:

“Along with this came a lot of attention and opportunities, but I couldn’t capitalize on them. I was handcuffed by the NCAA rules that prevented me from deriving any benefit from my own name and likeness, regardless of the fact that after my final meet, I had no pro league to join.

“The NCAA is a billion-dollar industry built on the backs of college athletes. How different would things be for me had I been able to use my image and name my last year of school in order to promote the things I want to further my future? I want to make sure the next person doesn’t have to wonder.”

Ohashi then cited California’s Fair Pay to Play Act, which Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed to allow college athletes in the state to profit off their own name, image and likeness. It goes directly against NCAA rules, and the governing body is expected to challenge the law in court before it takes effect in 2023.

In arguments against the law, critics have suggested that it would hurt women’s sports or athletes who compete in non-revenue sports. Those arguments have been torn apartmultiple times, and Ohashi piled on.

She pointed to her own experience, explaining why it would be actually the exact opposite situation that critics suggest. She also succinctly explained a common misconception that this law is about schools handing athletes a paycheck, like everyone else who generates money for it. That’s not the case.

In the New York Times video, Ohashi continued:

“The Fair Pay to Play Act is not about paying salaries to college athletes. It’s about empowering student-athletes to rightfully earn off their individual name and likeness without sacrificing the opportunity to get an education. …

“It’s about recognizing that women only receive four percent of all coverage in sports media and giving us the freedom to leverage sponsored deals to break through. It’s about treating student-athletes with the same respect as any other student who can freely profit off their talent as writers, artists, DJs, programmers or scientists while in college.”

She spoke about her own experience in a non-revenue sport and how, had the Fair Pay to Play Act been enacted when she was still competing for UCLA, she would have been able to greatly benefit off her own name.

“Critics say that allowing student-athletes to earn endorsement income will come at the expense of Title IX or non-revenue generating sports. But from experience, allowing an athlete – especially women or Olympic-sport athletes, who, for the most part, are staying and graduating from NCAA institutions – to take advantage of unexpected moments like I had empowers us to help finally earn what we deserve.”

Watch Ohashi’s full New York Times video here.

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