Sonny Vaccaro: Caitlin Clark ‘Should Have Got a Piece of Everything Just Like Michael Jordan’

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Reports detailing the terms of WNBA rookie Caitlin Clark’s deal with Nike surfaced last week, a contract reportedly worth up to $28 million over eight years and a signature shoe. If the reports are accurate, famed sports marketing executive Sonny Vaccaro believes she should have received more.

Speaking with TMZ Sports, Vaccaro said he thought the deal was “poorly handled” by the athlete’s agents, and stated “Caitlin Clark was in the best position to maximize her value immediately than any [woman in sports] that I knew.”

Vaccaro also said he believes some of this generation’s top athletes “feel obligated to Nike” because of the existence of name, image and likeness (NIL) deals, which weren’t available to athletes in prior generations.

“All the women who made progress here, this could have been the bottom line,” Vaccaro said of Clark’s contract, and continued, “They messed up, they should have held on to the last drop.”

Referring to Clark as both “brilliant” and “charismatic,” Vaccaro stated she deserved a deal similar to that of Michael Jordan in 1984, which included royalties of shoes sold using his likeness.

“She should have got a piece of everything just like Michael Jordan,” Vaccaro said.

He continued, “She will never be at a higher peak than she was during college this last year in that Final Four. If she’s going to be the greatest woman player in the world, it’s going to take time to do that — and she can do that.”

Vaccaro was a key figure in Nike’s signing of Jordan in 1984. His story was told in “Air,” a movie released in April 2023 chronicling the game-changing partnership between MJ and Nike. He was also involved in other notable athlete signings, including Kobe Bryant, who joined Adidas in 1996.

Vaccaro, however, did say Nike was the best brand home for Clark because they will use her properly, and was critical of the other brands that reportedly backed out when the price of the deal became too high for them.

“The other companies dropped out, they dropped out not having an idea what the hell they were doing,” Vaccaro said.

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Puma removed itself from the Clark sweepstakes when it was told the bidding would start at $3 million per year. Under Armour reportedly offered $16 million over four years and Adidas came in at $6 million over four years.

About the Author

Peter Verry is the Senior News and Features Editor for Athletic and Outdoor at Footwear News. He oversees coverage of the two fast-paced and ultracompetitive markets, which includes conducting in-depth interviews with industry leaders and writing stories on sneakers and outdoor shoes. He is a lifelong sneaker addict (and shares his newest purchases via @peterverry on Instagram) and spends most of his free time on a trail. He holds an M.A. in journalism from Hofstra University and can be reached at

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