After 50 years of Title IX, these Triangle athletes inked NIL deals in Year 1 of new era

Robert Willett/
·3 min read

It’s been 50 years since Title IX — the gender-equality law banning sex-based discrimination in federally funded educational institutions — went into effect, and nearly a year since college athletes have been able to profit off their name, image and likeness (NIL).

As college sports have continued to evolve since the 1972 landmark legislation calling for equity in opportunities provided to females and males in academic settings took effect, here are five female college athletes in the Triangle who have benefited from the first year of the NIL era.

Duke’s Emily Cole

Cole, who is part of Duke’s track and field and cross country teams, is taking full advantage of the NIL opportunities that have come her way over the last year. She is one of 19 women partnered with H&R Block as part of its ‘A Fair Shot’ program. As part of the partnership, the rising senior will work with H&R Block to help highlight the inequality female athletes face compared to their male counterparts.

With about 160,000 followers on TikTok and around 55,500 followers on Instagram, the Houston native has created a brand that is marketable, despite the lack of visibility of her sports, as compared to other college programs like football and basketball. Cole, who opened the 2021 season by setting a personal best in the 5K at the Adidas XC Challenge, is releasing a cookbook in September of 2022.

UNC’s Tori Hansen

Hansen, a defender for the UNC soccer team, is represented by Hawker Family Sports & Entertainment for all NIL deals. The junior from Raleigh — who scored the game-winning goal for the Tar Heels against Washington in the second round of the NCAA tournament — partnered with the Charlotte FC as one of their first two college athlete ambassadors, along with Clemson’s Megan Bornkamp. As an ambassador, Hansen promotes the Charlotte FC brand on multiple social media platforms. She also attends games to immerse herself in the fan experience and participates in camps the team holds.

Duke’s Lexi Gordon

Gordon, a Duke basketball graduate student who led the Blue Devils in three-pointers made (49) last season, has an NIL deal with WWE. Through the partnership, Gordon has access to a plethora of resources across the company, from brand building to media training. The Blue Devils wing, who started her career at Texas Tech, also has deals with Urban Outfitters and Outback Steakhouse.

UNC’s Jamie Ortega

Ortega was the catalyst for the national championship UNC lacrosse team last season and made history when she signed an NIL deal with sports technology company Epoch Lacrosse. The former UNC attacker and five-time All-American has used Epoch’s lacrosse sticks since her sophomore year in 2019, and in her final year of her collegiate career, she to capitalize on her prolific UNC career.

Through the partnership with Epoch Lacrosse, Ortega, the winner of lacrosse’s 2022 national player of the year award, will help the company grow the sport, will provide input to be considered for the company’s apparel and will work with Epoch to promote its brand.

N.C. State’s Kai Crutchfield

Along with other Wolfpack athletes, Crutchfield is a part of an NIL deal with Amedeo, a popular Italian restaurant, as a social media ambassador. The former N.C. State guard who helped lead the Wolfpack to the Elite Eight last season also runs her own faith-based clothing line, Scripted Apprl. The clothing line sells a variety of relationship-based t-shirts.