Converse is splashing back into the basketball shoe scene by signing Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud as much for her social justice activism as her championship winning talents.
The sneaker company announced Monday a shoe deal with Cloud, a reigning WNBA champion who spent the weekend at protests. She is the first women’s basketball player to have a shoe deal with the company, which is getting back into basketball, and joins Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green and Phoenix Suns forward Kelly Oubre Jr. on the growing roster.
Converse said it signed the 28-year-old for her activism as well as her talents. It agreed to postpone the announcement in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis and the protests that continue on throughout the nation.
Converse signs Cloud in part for activism
Converse said in a statement that Cloud’s activism was equally as important when they signed her to a deal. Via Footwear News:
“Cloud is known for extending her influence through leadership efforts that place emphasis on being a voice for the voiceless, specifically using her platform to speak out against the racial injustices that are killing Black people in America, while also advocating for equality for women and the LGBTQ+ community and working to guide youth in her communities.”
“As with all members of the Converse family, our goal is to serve as a both a canvas for their creative vision and to spark progress in their communities. We look forward to amplifying her voice for the causes she believes in and will keep you updated on our community efforts following our recent commitment.”
Cloud organized a media blackout a year ago to address gun violence after an incident at an elementary school in the District. She works closely with gun advocacy groups for reform.
After Floyd’s death, she penned a piece for The Players Tribune titled “Your Silence is a Knee on My Neck” and this weekend attended protests in Philadelphia, near where she grew up in Broomall.
“Natasha Cloud’s recent piece is one of many examples of integrity, grace and strength she brings to the Converse team,” Ronald Johnson, general manager of global basketball at Converse, told the Washington Post. “We stand in solidarity with the black community, with our athletes, collaborators and our teammates, and we commit to act.”
In years past, making a stance has been a large risk for athletes who fear lose their sponsorship deals for speaking out. Michael Jordan is famously quoted as saying “Republicans buy shoes, too,” though he said on “The Last Dance” he said it in jest. It’s especially true for female athletes, who prior to the new collective bargaining agreement drew most of their income from overseas leagues and sponsorship deals.
Converse donates to donation, announces film
It’s unclear when the sides agreed to a shoe deal and at what point the announcement was meant to be made. But per the Post, the announcement was postponed when Cloud said she wasn’t comfortable with giving the news during the time.
Converse postponed and made a $25,000 donation to a racial justice organization in Philadelphia, per the Post. The company is also making a film featuring Cloud advocating for change.
Deal a step for gender equality
The deal is also a major move toward gender equality in the basketball shoe world. No current WNBA player has a signature shoe and few have had one over the course of the league. Sheryl Swoopes was the first in 1995 in the lead-up to the Atlanta Olympic Games.
Cloud’s signing is hopefully another entry into a new world of shoe showcases after Sabrina Ionescu, one of the more heralded No. 1 WNBA draft picks, signed a deal with Nike. The former Oregon star has put aside talk of her own shoe, saying she first needs to earn it.
Two-time MVP Elena Delle Donne is also a Nike athlete and helped debut a new shoe built with easy entry and exit, but has no shoe of her own.
Certain companies have started expanding their men’s basketball player’s shoe offerings to girl sizes, at least after public pushback. A young girl brought up the concern with Warriors superstar Steph Curry in November 2018 when she couldn’t find his shoes in her size.
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