Right now in the month of August there is an in between phase. We were waiting and anticipating free agency to see where our favorite players were going to go and hoping some would stay. And since then, what we’ve seen over the summer, particularly over social media, is players going to the gym, going to camps, traveling overseas, etc. For sneakerheads, this is the time of year where we have to be patient, waiting to get a glimpse at the new designs for upcoming shoes. It’s a tough time of year for fans who are eager to see what the new season will bring.
I could go on an on about the various shoes I’m excited for, from the Harden 4s to the Lebron 17s, the KD 13s, to name a few. I’m excited for official images, reviews, for the first time a player wears the new shoes, and ultimately, owning some myself. While this is all exciting, I can’t help but wonder how these brands are going to represent their athletes. It’s important for these brands who are making so much money and media attention off these athletes to return the favor and allow these athletes to embrace their voice too.
Basketball doesn’t start again until the end of October. During these three off season months, brands should take this time to clean things up, evaluate what their brand stands for in terms of their basketball brand, talk to their athletes, and learn what their values are. See what your athletes bring to the table and then make sure your company in return reflects their values in the products they sell. If your athletes have families, then you as a brand should embrace the importance of family. Right now, the athletes are spending time in their communities, supporting young men and women, and showing kids that they can get to this point if they put in the work and hustle. During this time when athletes are showcasing how much they value community, it’s important for the brands they represent to reflect this as well.
Brands have time right now to figure their shit out. What is frustrating for me, from a consumer standpoint, is seeing a shoe that you really want to get but knowing the company who made it seemingly doesn’t care about you or things you care about. Even though their athletes might look like, sound like, and be relatable to you, the company behind them does not truly care about relating to you. There are currently pending lawsuits against Nike alleging there has been a culture of sexual harassment and gender bias that have left women demeaned and underpaid. For a brand that has put out some amazing material about women empowerment, it seems a lot less sincere when you hear about this going on. Further, there has even been a lawsuit from investors with the following quote coming from one of their lawyers, “stockholders are concerned that the board has allowed rampant sexual harassment and gender discrimination to go on within the company, unfettered for as many as 20 years.” This past year the US women’s soccer team jersey has broke sales records, and Nike’s marketing team has been on point with their newest female empowerment ads, showing how amazing athletes like Serena Williams really are. With all this going for women, it’s shameful that the company itself can’t treat women with the same respect their ads imply.
Adidas has an ongoing allegation of gender and racial discrimination. There were talks of releasing a couple commercials involving James Harden and Dame Lillard. According to a NY Times article, past and current employees have stated that, “they were frequently the only black person in meetings, and often felt their input was not valued when decisions were being made. And an overall lack of racial diversity, they said, meant it was not uncommon for negative stereotypes to creep into work, discussions, or marketing pitches involving black athletes, sometimes creating backlash outside the company.”
These brands need to make an effort to ensure that they re-evaluate themselves and align themselves with the values their branded athletes have. Bring people into the room who understand these perspectives and weigh in on how to represent the brand. More and more people are comfortable with representing their own identities, and it’s important to not silence these identities. Have more people into the room with diverse backgrounds to share and understand different perspectives and values. This issue is very frustrating, especially coming from two of the biggest brands in the business, Nike and Adidas. It’s troubling to me that they can’t do more to embrace the values of those that keep them in business. I’m tired of society trying to put people in boxes, for example, black men being stereotyped. There are plenty of great examples of great black role models, but their brands have done them a disservice because they are tying their image to the athletes they represent instead of athletes joining a brand because they represent strong values. My point is, these brands need to do more to properly represent their athletes, especially when their image so strongly dependent on what these athletes represent.