Caitlin Clark signs 8-figure signature sneaker deal; yet, no Black WNBA players have signature shoes

Caitlin Clark is in talks to ink a deal with Nike for a signature shoe and it’s sparked a discussion about the lack of Black women in the WNBA who have received similar opportunities. While the NBA and WNBA share similar player demographic statistics, with both leagues having a majority of Black players, the distribution of signature sneakers tells a different story.

In the NBA, signature sneakers are predominantly worn by Black athletes, reflecting the racial makeup of the league and the popularity of its stars. The NBA is 71.8% Black and 17.4% White. On the other hand, the WNBA is 70% Black and 18.9% White. 

However, the WNBA, despite having a comparable demographic composition, lacks representation of Black women in the realm of signature footwear.

According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the deal between Caitlin Clark and Nike will secure her a substantial sum close to $20 million, trumping her WNBA rookie contract, which stands at $338,056 over four years. 

As a rookie player, she is set to make $76,535 per year. Clark, like many other WNBA players, will expectedly make the bulk of her earnings through brand endorsements and deals. 

Currently, the WNBA boasts four White players out of 24 who were All-Stars. Excluding Candace Parker, who is aligned with the ACE basketball shoe.

When one Twitter/X user commented that A’ja Wilson dropped a shoe last year, in reference to her collaboration with Nike for a fresh spin on the Cosmic Unity 3’s, Jemele Hill responded, “That’s not considered a signature shoe. Her teammates even joked about her not having her own signature shoe yesterday.”

All signature basketball sneakers in the WNBA belong to White players. 

The exclusive list includes Breanna Stewart (Puma Stewie), Sabrina Ionescu (Nike Sabrina), and Elena Delle Donne (Nike Air Deldon).

While talent and popularity are significant factors in securing such deals, it’s essential to consider the broader implications of representation and opportunity. For instance, Maya Moore, one of the most successful and celebrated players in WNBA history, never received a signature sneaker from Nike/Jordan brand. Similarly, A’ja Wilson, another standout athlete with multiple MVP awards, has yet to receive such recognition.

Furthermore, Jemele Hill also took to Twitter/X captioning a meme of a tired restaurant employee, “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…” 

The lack of signature sneakers for Black women in the WNBA may reflect underlying issues within sneaker companies, particularly concerning diversity and representation. Without adequate representation at decision-making levels, Black women athletes may continue to feel the brunt of being overlooked for signature shoe opportunities by industry giants. 

As the WNBA’s popularity and viewership grow, brands like Adidas, Puma and Nike  have the opportunity to address this imbalance and provide more equitable opportunities for all athletes, regardless of race. 

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