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Pretty in Any Color: Women in Basketball Make the Style Rules


W.N.B.A. players, with a maximum base salary of about $230,000, earn far lower than their millionaire counterparts within the N.B.A., making marketing dollars much more vital. The W.N.B.A. has a pool of $1 million that it must spend on marketing deals for players, and every team has to spend between $50,000 and $100,000 per 12 months on player marketing deals. Any unspent amount carries over to the following season on top of the minimum.

The league said it selects players to take part in marketing efforts based on a wide range of aspects: on-court performance, a longtime personal brand with an energetic fan base, and the willingness to travel and take part in league events.

“Ideas about bodies play out most explicitly on the bodies of athletes — harmful ideas and in addition positive ideas,” Jackson said. “That’s one other way through which this generally is a space of conflict and an area of harm, too, depending on the best way those ideas are packaged and sold.”

Tiffany Mitchell likes to feel the swing of her ponytail as she runs the court.

Mitchell, who’s Black, has often worn her hair in long, braided styles past her waist since she starred at South Carolina from 2012 to 2016. This type of protective hairstyling allows her to go longer between restyling and may prevent breakage throughout the grind of the season with the W.N.B.A.’s Indiana Fever.

Those swinging braids became a difficulty throughout the W.N.B.A. off-season in December, when she was competing with the Melbourne Boomers, knowledgeable women’s team in Australia. Basketball Australia, the game’s governing body, said the league’s players needed to tie their hair back or up, mistakenly attributing the policy to a FIBA rule that was now not in effect. Mitchell, one in every of just three Black players on the Boomers’ roster, felt targeted, since she had never had to alter her hair for other international competitions. Basketball Australia later apologized and rescinded what it called a “discriminatory” policy.

“They don’t know about what a Black woman goes through, let alone an athlete,” Mitchell said. “So I believe that me bringing it to their attention called out the ignorance because there have been players on this league which have had braids before me, and it was never a difficulty.”

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