‘As Black Women, We’re Still Going To Be Swept Underneath The Rug’: Two-Time MVP A’Ja Wilson Wants More Respect, Caitlin Clark Wants to Help

A’ja Wilson got her signature shoe, but she won’t be silenced when it comes to issues of race in the WNBA that have become magnified by the Caitlin Clark phenomenon. 

Wilson, a two-time MVP, discussed the role Clark’s race played in her rising stardom, telling the Associated Press that the achievements of Black women athletes are often “swept under the rug.”

“I think it’s a huge thing. I think a lot of people may say it’s not about Black and white, but to me, it is,” Wilson said when asked about the race element in Clark’s popularity and before she recently signed an endorsement deal with Nike for her own signature shoe. 

A’Ja Wilson Says Black Woman Still Overlooked

 “It really is because you can be top notch at what you are as a Black woman, but yet maybe that’s something that people don’t want to see.

“They don’t see it as marketable, so it doesn’t matter how hard I work. It doesn’t matter what we all do as Black women, we’re still going to be swept underneath the rug. That’s why it boils my blood when people say it’s not about race because it is.”

Wilson has some valid points and the racial disparities that are inevitable when Black athletes want white corporations to pay them what they believe they are worth has long been discussed. It’s a battle as old as private sports ownership itself. This lack of appreciation that elite athletes feel, especially when other, less accomplished athletes capture the masses and get more endorsement opportunities, is common and not limited to women athletes. 

A’Ja Wilson Gets Signature Shoe With Nike

It’s odd that Wilson would make these comments during the week that she finally got the signature shoe everybody said she deserved for being the No. 1 player in the WNBA. 

As a Black woman, she was very appreciated. Her sneaker deal was celebrated by people who aren’t getting a red cent or any personal satisfaction out of the deal. Her Las Vegas Aces team received their 2023 WNBA Championship rings. Wilson’s fits for opening night were the talk of the league. 

Wilson represents Black excellence and in many ways the struggle for Black America towards equality. The narrative that she is overlooked because Caitlin Clark took the world by storm, is only half true. 

Wilson hasn’t taken any losses because Clark is white. Clark is appealing to an audience that Wilson, who has close to 1M followers on IG herself, has not yet captured. 

Proof Is In The Numbers: Caitlin Clark Effect

The Sun’s 92-71 win over the Fever in Clark’s WNBA debut on the league’s opening night on Tuesday drew an average of 2.1 million viewers on ESPN2, ESPN+ and Disney+, including a high of 2.3 million viewers between 7:45 p.m. and 7:59 p.m. That topped ESPN’s previous mark of nearly 1.5 million viewers for a Phoenix Mercury-Connecticut Sun game on May 22, 2004, in Diana Taurasi’s rookie season.

The attention of that game spilled over into the second game between Phoenix and Wilson’s Las Vegas Aces, that game averaged 464,000 viewers, with the two games averaging 1.28 million — a 192% increase over the league’s average last year for broadcasts on ESPN.

So, while players can throw veiled messages and use Clark’s come-up as proof of their oppression, the No. 1 overall draft pick who scored 20 points and recorded a record 10 turnovers in her debut performance with the Indiana Fever, sees it another way. 

“I think there’s opportunities for every single player in women’s basketball,” Clark said at a press conference before her WNBA debut this week. “I think the more opportunities we can give across the board, that’s what’s going to elevate women’s basketball.”

Clark Hopes Her Popularity Will Put Spotlight On Other WNBA Stars

“It doesn’t need to be just one or two players, and I think that even goes back to college,” she continued. “The parity in women’s basketball is what’s making more people want to come watch it. I think the more we can spread love, show people, show their talent, show their teams – that’s just going to continue to elevate it.”

Similar to Larry Bird when he entered the NBA and saved the league along with Magic Johnson, Clark’s skin color makes her polarizing in a sport where 70 percent of the players and 90 percent of the best players are Black. So, in that regard, race does play a part. In addition to his unprecedented annihilation of other pro golfers in major events, a huge part of Tiger Woods’ appeal was that he wasn’t white. He was a man with a Black dad who rose to the top of a white sport.  

Pro hoops are similar in that we haven’t had a white American player win an NBA MVP since Larry Bird in the ’80s. The WNBA, however, despite a similar racial composition, is almost the opposite with many of the league’s GOAT candidates currently being white. 

It’s all about perspective and Wilson could begin to bridge the divide and ride the wave as Clark suggested without directly saying it. There’s enough love for everybody to go around and in life, some things aren’t fair. But Wilson’s life is going well, her brand is on the upswing and more people are paying attention to her Las Vegas Aces as they try to three-peat. The real race is for MVP and Clark is likely to be in the mix as well before the season ends. 

More TSL Stories:

‘We Got Some People That Can Shoot Some Logo Threes Too’: Las Vegas Aces Coach Becky Hammon Has Caitlin Clark Fatigue (theshadowleague.com)

WNBA Top Ten Salaries | League’s Most Accomplished Players Aja Wilson And Breanna Stewart Don’t Even Make The List (theshadowleague.com)

‘Hope A’ja Takes This Personal’: Indiana Fever Ranked Third-Worst In WNBA, But Fans Are Picking CC To Win MVP By A Landslide (theshadowleague.com)

Back to top