2021.11.14.EMG.MAS.WBBvDixieSt-5.jpg

Ducks forward Sedona Prince (32) attempts a shot over Trailblazers guard Breaunna Gillen (20). Ducks Womens Basketball take on Dixie State Trailblazers at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore., on Nov. 14, 2021 (Maddie Stellingwerf/Emerald).

A cheer rippled through the Oregon football student section, catching Kelly Graves’ attention.

As the Ducks’ football team continued trouncing the Arizona Wildcats, Graves, the Oregon women’s basketball coach, turned his attention toward the fans. The applause was so significant he expected to see his favorite singer, Bruce Springsteen, or former Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota making their way through Autzen Stadium — instead, it was his starting center, Sedona Prince.

In an overcrowded student section, Prince stood out –– not only because of her 6-foot-7 stature.

Prince earned that effusive cheer from the student body because she has dedicated her time to representing thousands of student-athletes, her teammates and fellow students in a dispute against the NCAA.

Seventy-three days after Prince and the Oregon Ducks’ season ended in a Sweet-16 loss to the Louisville Cardinals, she was sitting in a courtroom arguing for monetary alterations for all student-athletes and systematic changes to the organization they play for –– such as marketing the women’s tournament with the term “March Madness” and other forms of equal treatment of women student-athletes.

In a press conference, Prince said her first priority will always be basketball, but she has taken on a new responsibility. Graves dubbed his star center, “the poster-child of the NIL.”

Previously, the NCAA’s controversial rules barred student-athletes from receiving any compensation outside of the organization’s narrow provisions, including profiting off one’s name, image and likeness (NIL) — a right non-athletic-scholarship students already have. 

This summer shed clarity on the situation as Prince, along with other student-athletes and coaches, testified against the NCAA. In June, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a bill granting student-athletes NIL rights.

In her testimony, Prince said it was unfair that she couldn’t profit off of her social media content. She currently has 2.8 million followers on TikTok and, prior to the ruling, no monetary benefit came from her social media presence.

Prince and her fellow student-athletes believed it was unfair they couldn’t accept earnings from social media or potential advertisement deals due to their amateur athletic status.

In order to maximize every one of her assets, Prince said she had to take individual control of the NCAA and her life.

“I’ve learned that I love business marketing and content creation,” Prince said. “That has helped me realize that I have to work really hard in basketball, and it’s translated to school.”

Prince led the surge while balancing her own basketball career, maintaining a social media presence and building relationships with her teammates.

“There are a lot of eyeballs on her,” Graves said. “She’s never let it affect her on the court, and she’s still the same happy-go-lucky Sedona Prince.”

In addition to now profiting off her social media content, Prince has used her platform to bring awareness to gender inequalities entrenched in the NCAA.

“It’s not about the money I make; it's about learning, helping other student-athletes, being a leader and making an impact on this team,” Prince said.

Prince called out the NCAA for gender inequalities during the postseason tournament, which took place in San Antonio and Austin, Texas, this past spring. She took a video of the women’s weight room, which consisted of one weight rack, compared to the men’s full training facility. Additionally, the women received lesser quality COVID-19 tests and food options.

University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma said the women would be tested for antigens, while the men received rapid PCR tests every day.

Prince’s high school coach Chris Lange said Prince has never been afraid of making a statement. Her outcries have contributed to actionable change as the NCAA will use the term “March Madness” for the upcoming women’s postseason tournament for the first time.

“It has to continue with these action items that continue to help women basketball players be heard, but if there’s not a systematic change then nothing will ever happen,” Prince said.

Scrapping for profits, fighting for women’s rights and leading her basketball team, Prince holds a weight not many 21-year-olds hold.

With that weight comes a presence, epitomized by the love she receives from students — their raucous applause at a football game, their never-ending lines to take photos with her and her ever-growing social media following.

Aaron Heisen is a writer from Venice Beach, California. He enjoys covering Oregon sports including basketball, football, baseball and softball. When he’s not writing, he’s playing basketball, reading, watching movies, or spending time with his family.