WNBA: Wings' new Nike Rebel jersey pulled for not aligning with shared diversity values

Cassandra Negley
·Writer
·5-min read

Nike, the WNBA and the Dallas Wings are pulling the franchise's new Rebel edition jersey after having "recently learned" the real history of the design meant to honor female empowerment. 

The league released three new uniforms for each of its 12 teams on April 8 under the name "H.E.R." for its Heroine Edition, Explorer Edition and Rebel Edition. The Rebel jerseys "applaud the irreverent voices who define each team's home city and state." 

The Wings honored the P-40 Warhawk plane and Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) corps from World War II. But the decision faced scrutiny in the days after the announcement because WASP excluded Black women. 

Wings base Rebel story on Women Airforce Service Pilots

The jersey takes inspiration from the P-40 Warhawk with military green and a military star in the center to honor the WASP organization. It honors the women who became the first to fly for the U.S. military after training at nearby Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. 

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In 1942 these pilots filled when there was a shortage of pilots due to men on combat duty overseas in World War II. More than 1,100 women volunteered as civilians and completed tasks such as ferrying new planes and testing overhauled ones. They flew nearly every type of aircraft and expected to become part of the military before the government canceled the program after two years. 

But Black women were not accepted into the WASP organization. Janet Bragg and Mildred Hemmons Carter, who each became "firsts" as pilots, told Teen Vogue in 2017 they were rejected from the program as Black women. There were a few women of color in the program, as detailed in the book "The U.S. WASP."  

Nike, WNBA, Wings pull Rebel jersey 

The Rebel jersey became controversial because of its celebration of a group that excluded Black women. This after the league's players focused on "Say Her Name" during the bubble season and are continuing their social justice council into the 25th anniversary season. The league itself will focus on social justice and celebrate it throughout the campaign. 

Jasmine Baker, a journalist and women's sports culturalist, pointed out the history of WASP on Twitter. On Thursday, the day of the WNBA draft, she tweeted that the jerseys had been taken off sites and customers said their orders were canceled. 

Nike, the WNBA and the Wings released a joint statement to Time on Friday: 

“The recently unveiled Dallas Wings Nike Rebel Edition uniform was designed to celebrate a group of Texas-based women pilots during World War II. However, Nike, the WNBA and the Dallas Wings recently learned the history of the program does not align with our shared values of diversity, equity and inclusion. As a result, the Dallas Wings will not wear this uniform on court, Nike and its partners are removing it from retail, and Nike and the Wings will work together on a new Nike Rebel Edition uniform design for the future.”

The WNBA season tips off May 14 and all 12 teams are in action on opening weekend. 

Mystics take inspiration from Women's March 

The Washington Mystics Rebel edition has also been criticized. It takes inspiration from the Women's March in 2017 and honors the 19th Amendment, including the trailblazers who fought for women's voting rights.

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Black women still couldn't vote with the passing of the amendment and had to wait 40 years for a law that would legally give them that right. The Mystics acknowledged this in their jersey announcement and honored Black women who "played a crucial role in the suffragist movement." But some are still unhappy with the choice. 

WNBA rebel jerseys for all 12 teams

The reigning champion Seattle Storm celebrate the city's history of political engagement with a "sash-like swoop" across the chest, back and shorts and the Space Needle. The Las Vegas Aces' version is inspired by the Ace card and "in reference to those who have mastered their craft." 

The New York Liberty's jersey features "Equality" across the front. The Chicago Sky have a cracked glass jersey to honor women breaking through the glass ceiling. Star accents highlight the Rebel for the Los Angeles Sparks. The Atlanta Dream are paying homage to the "sound" of the city and its "unmatched impact on hip-hop." The vibrant colors and "confident lettering" honor female recording artists. 

The Indiana Fever won the category for many with a "Stranger Things" jersey. The Minnesota Lynx are "inspired by the legendary soul of First Avenue." And the Phoenix Sun are giving a shout out to their "X-factor" fans with a large "PHX." 

The Connecticut Sun will wear a blue jersey with "Keesusk," which means "Sun" in the Mohegan language. Different aspects of the jersey honor the Algonquian Native American tribe that calls the area home.  

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