Nike is hoping Griner’s marketing clout will transcend the court. The company takes a cookie-cutter approach to signing female ballers, combining a set amount of free gear with a small payment. Sponsorship deals start at $5,000 a year, and only a handful of WNBA players earn more, with $15,000 considered big money. Griner’s deal is within this range; what makes it groundbreaking is the freedom. She will wear apparel branded as menswear, including the skateboarding line Nike SB, and she is allowed to pursue nontraditional marketing deals with outside companies. (Griner recently signed a one-year deal to play this winter in hoops-crazed China, where big-name female stars earn about $1 million a season, nearly 10 times the maximum WNBA salary.)
Androgynous models are coveted in high-end fashion, but the trend toward gender-neutral clothing has only just begun to reach the sports world, with NBA stars Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade blurring the lines in their tight jeans and fitted sweaters. No sports apparel company has taken it a step further and expressly targeted the gender-fluid crowd — and whether Nike is willing to ride the edge with Griner remains to be seen. “We can’t get into specifics,” says Nike spokesman Brian Strong, “but it’s safe to say we jumped at the opportunity to work with her because she breaks the mold.”
Griner relishes the chance to show her evolved style, saying she doesn’t see herself as a certain “type” anymore. Others might call her a stud, but she’s just BG now. “It clicked for me,” she says. “I used to do the whole baggy, hard-core, I’m-a-boy look. Then I went through a preppy phase. Now I have the athletic, bow-tie look. I found my style.”
And along the way, she found an identity that feels like home. A week before joining the Mercury for training camp, Griner spent eight hours getting the flower tattoo on her left shoulder extended into a sleeve, complete with a hummingbird. “It’s to show my girlie side,” she says. “So many people exist between the two ends of the spectrum, but no one wants to admit it. If you’re in between, they say something is wrong with you. ‘We can fix you.’ Well, I don’t need fixing.”
Talk yo’ isht girl!
What do you think of Brittney’s bold move to rock men’s gear?