Rolling Out

Caitlin Clark being White is ‘huge’ in her popularity, says A’ja Wilson

The Las Vegas Aces superstar said her incredible basketball exploits were being ignored
Las Vegas Aces forward A'Ja Wilson talks to guard Jackie Young during practice. (Photo credit: Rashad Milligan for rolling out)

WNBA superstar A’ja Wilson said the elephant in the room when it comes to the enormous popularity of Caitlin Clark is the fact that she is a White woman.

Clark is by far the most heralded basketball player since Larry Bird entered the NBA in 1979 alongside Earvin “Magic” Johnson. But when you juxtapose Clark’s resumé with Wilson’s, the contrast is startling and begs the question as to why Clark already has a signature Nike shoe deal and Wilson did not until this past week.

Wilson has a jaw-dropping sports portfolio that includes collegiate national champion (at South Carolina), No. 1 draft pick, five-time WNBA All-Star, Olympic gold winner, two-time WNBA champion, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, two-time WNBA Most Valuable Player, WNBA Finals MVP, New York Times best seller, and TIME Most Influential People in 2024.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Wilson said there was a race element to Clark’s monumental popularity. 

“I think it’s a huge thing. I think a lot of people may say it’s not about Black and White, but to me, it is,” Wilson said. “It really is because you can be top-notch at what you are as a Black woman, but yet maybe that’s something that people don’t want to see.

The center for the Las Vegas Aces continued, saying: “They don’t see it as marketable, so it doesn’t matter how hard I work. It doesn’t matter what we all do as Black women, we’re still going to be swept underneath the rug. That’s why it boils my blood when people say it’s not about race because it is.”

To further Wilson’s point, Clark inked a $28 million Nike shoe deal before she even shot a single ball for the WNBA, whereas Wilson has dominated the sport for the past decade but still did not have a shoe deal. In fact, the only women in the WNBA with a Nike deal were White women in a sport overwhelmingly dominated by Black females.

The pressure to produce a signature deal for Wilson was ramped up exponentially after Nike made their announcement for Clark, the all-time collegiate scoring leader (men or women) and the two-time Player of the Year.

Even LeBron James demanded that A’ja Wilson get a Nike shoe deal

Even LeBron James spoke up on Wilson’s behalf after Wilson led the Aces to their second consecutive WNBA championship in the summer of 2023.

Wilson is gearing up to try to win the Aces their third consecutive title, something that has not been accomplished since Cynthia Cooper and the now-defunct Houston Comets won four in a row near the turn of the century (1997-2000).

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