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Nike Launches Think Tank to Drive the Future of Women’s Sport in Underserved Communities

It’s no secret women have historically fought to have the same rights on and off the sporting field since anyone can remember — a fact made exponentially true for women of color. 

Female athletes still struggle with their bodies and outfits being scrutinized, with tennis legend Serena Williams coming under fire by the French Tennis Federation for a gorgeous catsuit she wore to play at the French Open 2018. Then there’s, of course, the disheartening fight that continues to go on for equal pay, with members of the U.S. women’s soccer team filing an equal pay lawsuit against U.S. Soccer that was settled last February. Even then, salaries between female and male athletes are still world’s apart in sports like basketball and hockey.

While the conversation around women’s sports seems to be changing, propelled by female athletes like Naomi Osaka that aren’t afraid to speak their truth on subjects like mental health, there is still tons of work to be done. That said, Nike has taken notice — and is putting in substantial efforts to change the game for female athletes. 

Nike is known for taking powerful stances on a wide-range of social issues, such as when they released their “Dream Crazy” ad featuring former football player Colin Kaepernick in 2018, stating: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Now, Nike is at it again with their new Athlete Think Tank, which brings together some of the most successful female athletes in the world, each hailing from different backgrounds. Bringing in athletes like track and field sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Serena Williams, and soccer player Ada Hegerberg, the Athlete Think Tank is all about learning from its members — and brainstorming how to change women’s sports for the better. 

One member of the Athlete Think Tank that’s bringing all kinds of meaningful change? Paralympic track & field athlete Scout Bassett, who rose from adversity after being found on the street as a newborn baby after suffering the loss of her right leg in a fire. Living in an orphanage until the age of seven in Nanjing, China, few can understand the value of opportunity as well as Bassett can — on and off the field. 

Courtesy of NIKE, Inc.

About Nike’s new initiative, Bassett explained, “I felt that it was tremendously important for me to be a part of this collective and to lend my voice and perspective to the conversation.” Bringing her unique experiences to the discussions, her “mission is to get more women involved in the Paralympics… and overall more women competing in sport.”

Nike knows there’s still work to be done when it comes to women empowerment in sports, whether talking about access, funding, or overcoming the constant scrutinization of female bodies in athletics. The Athlete Think Tank’s incredible lineup agreed that girls everywhere need equal opportunity to practice their sport of choice, and that their bodies should be respected at all costs.

The best way to make it happen? Starting from the root of the issue and investing in community organizations to uplift girls everywhere.

The company just announced they’re partnering with CAF America to fund a $1.3 million investment going to 20 organizations chosen by the Athlete Think Tank members themselves, including The Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation which brings funding to young athletes in underserved communities, and art4sport that brings opportunities in athletics to children who are amputees. 

There’s no doubt Nike is propelling the careers of athletes everywhere through these initiatives — particularly girls in underrepresented communities that will finally be given the chance to dream big.

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