Brittney Griner, 22, the #1 Draft Pick for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, will be modeling men’s clothing for Nike, reports ESPN’s Kate Fagan.
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.
“It clicked for me,” Griner 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.”
The 6’8 Griner, who wears a size 17 shoe, shares with Fagan the pain that she had to go through hiding her sexuality at Baylor and living with the harsh judgment of her father, who didn’t want to “raise a gay girl.”
After years of shying away from publicly speaking about her gender-bending existence, she now says that it feels good to say that she is a “strong, black, lesbian woman.”
“So many people exist between the two ends of the spectrum, but no one wants to admit it,” says Griner. “If you’re in between, they say something is wrong with you.’We can fix you.’ Well, I don’t need fixing.”