Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Back in 2021, when the NCAA updated its Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) rules to make it possible for college athletes to cash in on their athletic prowess, they had no idea what was going to happen next. Sure, they probably guessed that the best undergraduate athletes were going to land some massive endorsement deals if they decided to turn pro, or that athletes headed to the Olympic Games or other prestigious sporting events were going to cash in big-time.
But the NCAA probably had no inkling that the changes in the NIL rules would also prove to be a massive windfall for second-, third-, and even fourth-tier athletes with absolutely no plans to turn pro. As it turns out, many of these athletes were beautiful, sexy girls who happened to be good at sports. The more these so-called “hot girls” were willing to objectify themselves on social media (such as by posing on the beach in a bikini), the more they could make simply by looking beautiful.
Meet the Cavinder Twins
And nobody personifies this phenomenon better than the Cavinder Twins, a pair of blonde basketball players from California who transferred to the University of Miami with one sole purpose: to get access to a larger potential audience of social media fans and more lucrative sponsorship deals.
Of course, there’s not anything wrong with what the Cavinder Twins (Hannah and Haley) are doing. They are skilled basketball players, and they excelled at the Division I level. So shouldn’t they be able to post photos and videos to Instagram and TikTok and engage with their fans and followers, just like everyone else their age? Who can blame them if a few sponsors come calling, with plans for them to promote sports drinks, nutritional supplements, or beach fashion?
The “hot girl” problem
As might be imagined, there are two ways to view this. The Cavinder Twins – and their tens of thousands of ardent followers – claim that they are simply two young women “empowering” other young women to achieve. Female athletes have always been paid less than male athletes, and have always had fewer opportunities to make money as professional athletes. So why not let these young athletes cash in now with sponsorship deals, as long as the NCAA is OK with it? What’s so bad about posting a lot of photos on social media?
But others don’t view it this way. They say the NCAA has a “hot girl” problem. As they see it, the NCAA is sending the wrong message to young women. They are saying that, at the end of the day, being good at sports is not nearly as important as looking hot and sexy. They say the Cavinder Twins – by posing in some revealing outfits and reveling in their blondeness – are really just being exploited, the same way the girls on (yikes!) OnlyFans are. On top of that, the Cavinder Twins seem to be peddling some highly speculative products these days – like a sports betting site and all kinds of nutritional supplements that may or may not work.
Plus, and let’s be honest here, the elephant in the room is the subject of race. The Cavinder Twins are white and blonde, and look like Barbie dolls come to life. Meanwhile, women of color who actually excel at sports at the NCAA are being overlooked. Sponsors are essentially saying, “Look, it’s cool that you can score 30 points a game, but you don’t fit our stereotypical view of beauty, so too bad.” In today’s environment, where a single clumsy comment about race might get you banned from a social media platform, is that really where we want to be going as a society?
Where is this headed?
Call it a “hot girl” problem, or call it whatever you want, but it’s clear that the NCAA’s new policy on NIL deals has opened up an entire Pandora’s Box of problems. Getting a bunch of underage girls to pose sexy for the camera in exchange for financial rewards is, well, just plain wrong. Let’s judge women by their abilities, and not by their looks.