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What Role Does Race Play In Caitlin Clark’s Endorsements?

What Role Does Race Play In Caitlin Clark’s Endorsements? | Photo: Sarah Stier via Getty Images
What Role Does Race Play In Caitlin Clark’s Endorsements? | Photo: Sarah Stier via Getty Images

As we get closer to the opening of the WNBA season, the hype grows by the week. Seeing Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark begin to get shots up for their respective teams has been a joy. With all the energy and intrigue surrounding the new season, news of player salaries has also been a focal. In addition, there’s been a microscope on the types of endorsements that players would be getting. They would serve inherently as a supplement to their salaries since they were significantly lower than their male counterparts.

So, when news of Clark’s Nike deal surfaced, it raised the antennas of Black fans. Reportedly at $28 million over eight years, Clark is signing one of the most lucrative deals a WNBA player has ever signed. But what is this endorsement in recognition of? Could it be her historic, record-breaking college career? Or could we attribute it to the thought that her being a white woman makes her more widely appealing? I say that it could be a matter of truth in both cases. Clark’s race is out of her control. But her greatness is mostly her fault, that her grind and those skills merit recognition.

But knowing these things, what could I surmise Nike’s vision to be? Here’s how I see it, Clark has the opportunity to be a rising tide that lifts all ships. As Black basketball fans, we truly believe that basketball is our game. It’s the rhythm and the flare of the game that we so innately connect to. So, when a white baller with game comes along, we typically respect it and take notice. We revere Diana Taurasi, Dirk Nowitzki, Larry Bird and Luka Doncic just to name a few. And Nike may see that exact potential to brand around that greatness.

Photo: Roy Rochlin via Getty Images for Empire State Realty Trust
Photo: Roy Rochlin via Getty Images for Empire State Realty Trust

This unique era in women’s basketball has an opportunity for the game to hit the mainstream with staying power. It’s something that the league has taken steps to do for some years now. The energy around Clark gives the WNBA attention on almost all of their regular season games. Teams that want to challenge her and make examples of her and the other rookies. But, in turn, the revenue made from these games will also help catapult her on-court foes. If you thought last year’s WNBA campaign was exciting, wait until the Aces go up against the Fever. Or wait until we see Angel Reese and the Sky meet the Fever for the first time. Dates will be circled on calendars, and we as fans will be treated to compelling competition.

As I recognize the appeal that Clark has, I also don’t believe she should feel guilty about her deal. I rather a woman of any kind, show what any woman should be able to command in the sports marketplace. This will help all women gradually make more equitable income in their league. The optics of it all will also ensure that the public at large continues to take their sport as seriously as others. There are a lot of parts that help an engine run. This moment with Clark is just one of those incremental mechanisms that will help Black women also be in a position to make record-setting history.