Star gymnast Katelyn Ohashi says NCAA rules 'handcuffed' her at UCLA

UCLA star gymnast Katelyn Ohashi could have stood to benefit from California’s “Fair Pay to Play Act” if it were a law during her time tearing up the floor as a member of the Bruins.

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Ohashi rose to national fame earlier this year for an electric floor routine, which earned her a perfect score during a meet. However, she didn’t make any money off her viral video nor did she earn a dime from her appearances as a member of Team USA.

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In a New York Times op-ed on Wednesday, the six-time All-American slammed the NCAA and said she was “handcuffed” by the college athletics’ governing body.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

While critics of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s bill believe that it will give the state an advantage when it comes to recruits and transforms college athletes from amateuers to students, Ohashi said the bill rather allows individuals to get a cut of the profit from items being sold in their name anyway.

“It’s not about paying salaries to college athletes, it’s about empowering student-athletes to rightfully earn off their individual name and likeness without sacrificing their opportunity to get an education,” she said.

“It’s about making sure if a student-athlete’s jersey is still selling in the bookstore 10 years after graduation, they get a cut. It’s about recognizing that women only receive 4 percent of coverage in sports media and giving us the freedom to leverage sponsor deals to breakthrough. It’s about treating student-athletes with the same respect as any other students who can freely profit off their talent as writers, artists, DJs, programmers or scientists while in college.”

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The law will not go into effect until 2023. Several other states have discussed similar bills. Either way, the NCAA will have to reckon with the fact that at least some student-athletes will be paid in the near future.