“In A Sport Where 70% Of Players are Black Women, 0% Would Be Worthy Of A Shoe?” | The Three Women In WNBA With Sneaker Deals Are White

Blame Ice Cube for this mess.

When he announced — or did not deny — that he had offered Iowa star Cailtin Clark $5 million to become the first woman in his 3-on-3 Big3 League, it created a firestorm of backlash from Black women, most notably current WNBA players such as Lexi Brown, who felt it was disrespectful to all of the Black women who have paved the way for this recent explosion in women’s basketball that the rap mogul and league co-founder would choose not only a college player, but a white player in a sport that is dominated by Black people. 

Caitlin Clark Reported $10M Nike Deal

What people missed is that when it comes to women’s pro ball, the overlooked Black player is a common theme. On Wednesday night, it was reported that Indiana Fever rookie Caitlin Clark will get her own signature sneaker from Nike — a massive eight-figure deal, reportedly — making her the third active player in the WNBA to get her own shoe, joining Sabrina Ionescu and Breanna Stewart.  Ionescu is down with the Nike team. Stewart and PUMA partnered to release the Stewie 1 last year, and the shoe was popular enough to already get a second edition in the Stewie 2.

How Come MVP Star A’ja Wilson Doesn’t Have Signature Shoe?

After this news went public, people started wondering when two-time WNBA champion A’ja Wilson, who has been holding down, will get her own signature sneaker. 

Former ESPN personality Jemele Hill, who always has her eye on racial and gender inequities in pro sports, tweeted, “A’ja Wilson, who is a 2-time league MVP, 2-time WNBA champion, 2-time DPOY, a Finals MVP, a 5-time WNBA All Star, and a best-selling author, is probably somewhere like.”

There’s been rumors of Nike giving Wilson a shoe deal for several seasons now, but it has yet to materialize.  

Three WNBA Players With Shoe Deals Are White

Most people probably didn’t know that the three WNBA players who have signature sneaker deals are all white players. That fact, which is a black eye on the WNBA’s corporate relationships, structure and public reputation, opened the door for a larger discussion on Cailtin Clark and the preferential treatment she is already getting as the new, white face of the WNBA. 

One X user expanded on Hill’s beef with some sobering perspective on why Clark’s sneaker deal would irritate Black people, who are now taking a new interest in the WNBA and its corporate dealings and culture.

“It’s about the fact that Shoe companies didn’t make similar efforts with Highly marketable and influential Black women like A’ja. Only three women have shoe deals, and they are all white.”

Even more disturbing is the fact that they are among the league’s best players, but not a cut above the rest. Now that people are digging deeper into WNBA history and culture and politics, they might not like everything they see. But for the WNBA, everything is based on survival.  

WNBA, Sponsors Are Already Capitalizing On Future Of League

The numbers do make you scratch your head. But when you understand that the league is putting its future on Clark’s back, it’s not offensive that she is getting the LeBron James treatment, having spurned offers from Adidas, Curry Brand and others, to sign a massive deal with Nike. 

After all, when you have “Louis Vuitton” Dawn Staley winning another national championship and then crediting you as the “sole” reason college basketball viewership soared, everything that comes your way has been somewhat justified. 

“We need to make sure that we’re telling the stories of our entire game, so sometimes you have to go against the masses to really cut down to say what’s happening in real-time,” Staley said this week to Chicago station 670 The Score. “Caitlin Clark is the sole reason why viewership has shot through the roof for our game. Sole reason. Sole reason, and I think the decision-makers are following suit in making sure that other games are being played besides Caitlin Clark, because if you play Caitlin Clark, you’re going to run up against somebody (else) you might find that’s pretty good.” 

In the sport of basketball, where the Black players make up 70 percent of the league, a Larry Bird type, a great white hope, is not a bad thing, but the value on that player will also be set higher and that becomes a point of contentiousness.

“…in a sport where 70% of the players are Black Women, 0 % would be worthy of a shoe or marketable to the people who are watching them?” C.J. Lawrence asked in disbelief.

However, you need the little white girl who plays ball in Nebraska and Iowa and St. Joseph’s, Missouri, to fall in love with the game and the characters of the game so their parents will spend the money for the merch and the tickets. 

The way these things usually work, after the fuss this situation created, Wilson will probably get her sneaker deal within the next few months, because you can’t say that the only marketable players in the WNBA worth having sneaker deals are three white players. Even if it were true, it wouldn’t be American. Or would it?

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