USA Today Columnist Says Caitlin Clark's Shoe Deal Is a Sign of Racism

John Simmons | April 23, 2024

A USA Today columnist has taken issue with the fact that Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark is getting a sneaker deal, since no Black WNBA star has one.

Clark revolutionized the game of women’s basketball during her collegiate career with the Iowa Hawkeyes and wildly increased the sport’s popularity. As such, Nike offered her a deal worth $28 million to produce a line of custom-made shoes over the next eight years.

The move makes perfect sense from a business standpoint. Nike is pouncing on the chance to make money off perhaps the most marketable and famous female basketball star in history. 

But Mike Freeman thinks he smells something fishy with the situation.

In a lengthy column published on Monday, Freeman explained that he doesn’t think that it’s surprising that Clark is getting her own shoe deal. But he does take issue with the fact that the only people in the WNBA who currently have a shoe deal are white. Those players are Breanna Stewart, Elena Delle Donne, Sabrina Ionescu, and now Clark.

Freeman despises this because at one point in time, only Black players had shoe deals in the WNBA.

“In the past, almost every signature shoe from 1995-2011 belonged to a Black woman,” Freeman said. “The fact that only white women hold the power of the signature shoe now, as the WNBA enters its most high profile and prosperous phase, shows how Black women are being ignored in a league that they dominate.”

The columnist noted that Las Vegas Aces star A'ja Wilson (who is Black) has accomplished nearly everything there is to accomplish in her collegiate, WNBA, and international career - yet still doesn’t have a shoe deal. Freeman paired the number of white players with shoe deals and Wilson's lack of one as two facts that show the WNBA is being racist in how it markets its players. He further mentioned that you’re stupid if you don’t see it the way he does.

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“If you believe the only reason three (and likely soon four) white women are getting the shoes because they just happen to be more marketable, well, you're a fool,” he said.

To be fair to Freeman, Wilson certainly is deserving of a shoe deal given all she’s accomplished.

But that’s pretty much the only part of his argument that has any validity.

All of the players he mentioned were some of - if not the - most popular stars of the collegiate scene when they got drafted. Ionescu is so popular even now (by WNBA standards) that she participated in the most recent NBA All-Star weekend in a three-point shooting contest with Steph Curry. And as I mentioned no women’s basketball has earned as much fame as Clark - perhaps ever.

Furthermore, the WNBA isn’t making companies choose which stars they want to make a shoe deal with. Corporations like Nike have to do business with a star that has some level of marketability, otherwise the deal won’t be profitable. 

Therefore, it’s not the WNBA’s fault that the current list of players to get shoe deals with outside companies happen to be white. It’s also not a sign of a racism problem, especially considering that the opposite was true for nearly two decades (which Freeman himself mentioned). 

This guy’s argument doesn’t make a lot of sense. Then again, race-baiting arguments hardly ever do.

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