Lauren Wong | The Poly Post

Caleb Williams paints his nails, deal with it

By Matthew Acosta, Apr. 23, 2024

With the NFL draft quickly approaching, the projected No. 1 overall pick, Caleb Williams, is getting much more attention for his fashion and nail care than his dominance in college football.

Williams has faced much scrutiny in his collegiate career for his decision to paint his fingernails and display true emotion on and off the field causing many “former NFL scouts” to criticize if he is truly worth the selection.

The social norms of painting nails in this country has always been that it is OK for girls to paint their nails but something of mass criticism and femininity when men decide to do the same no matter the color, design or purpose.

The NFL draft is one of the biggest and most public job interviews in a country that loves to criticize athletes for their on-field performance or lack of performance for NFL teams, but teams look even deeper into the player’s personal lives as there is much more at stake in giving young adults millions of dollars.

NFL teams conduct extensive background checks of family members, teammates, coaches and anyone else that could possibly have any information on a player. Teams have to decide whether a player may indulge in partying or has other off-field issues that can affect performance and lives.

But for the first time, a quarterback is now being questioned by teams and other members of the media about his leadership because of his nails and his perceived “Hollywood lifestyle” due to his interests in fashion as well.

One of the most recent media backlashes for the 22-year-old was when Williams attended a USC women’s basketball game and was seen on the jumbotron with pink nails, a pink phone case and what the internet believed was pink lips.

This immediately brought on a social media storm questioning how he could lead men onto a football field when acting feminine, among other insults.

This, however, was the first sports season that I had seen another collegiate paint his nails and embrace their own creativity in this way.

Duke point guard Jared McCain made his mark before he stepped on the court flashing his painted nails in his TikTok videos even before the season started, drawing some of the same critiques as Williams the months before.

However, McCain took his passion for nails a step further as he gained a brand deal from nail polish brand Sally Hansen.

This brought on a series of insults and issues surrounding the freshman guard with many criticizing the new “Generation Z” athletes that are now hitting the college ranks.

The social media platforms have now given everyone a voice on these matters when it comes to questioning a player’s manhood solely based on how they present their personality themselves.

Former football coach from the Netflix series “Last Chance U” Jason Brown has been heavily critical of current athletes painting their nails, especially of Caleb Williams after a University of Southern California loss in which Williams cried in his mother’s arms postgame.

“How about play better and man up you soft weirdo ass hat wearing excuse making clown! Quit making excuses for these soft ass kids and man up! I wouldn’t draft his nail polish wearing ass if he was the last Qb available,” said Brown.

This mentality is what has turned a progressive moment of self expression into a mindless attack on a young athlete’s character.

As someone aligns with these athlete’s personalities in some ways and has painted their nails and felt the fear and concern in doing so, it is something that is so minimal in the grand scheme of things, but for some a complete judgment of someone’s character.

Many family members made backhanded “jokes” aimed to degrade my manhood because of the color of my nails but because of Williams, I felt that I was finally able to do something like this and almost use him as a shield. If the top pick in this year’s NFL draft could do it why couldn’t I?

When I began taking my Gender and Communication course with assistant professor Sunny Lie, the idea that men absolutely need to conform to a certain standard and refrain from painting their nails or that men can’t wear certain colors became so stupid to think of.

The ideas of gender norms became so fragile and so easily broken in my mind and I think that really was the final nudge I needed to be completely comfortable doing what I wanted in nails and in whatever else.

Williams will break records, win games and potentially win Superbowls at the next level of his career and I guarantee that those things will happen regardless of whether his nails are painted or not.

Painted nails, wearing dresses and everything in between, who cares? It doesn’t affect you or me, so deal with it.

Feature image courtesy of Lauren Wong

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