Real Life Black Hair Exhibit You Can Touch in NYC’s Union Square

Real Life Black Hair Exhibit You Can Touch in NYC's Union Square

Just imagine, an interactive public art exhibit where everyone can “explore the tactile fascination with black hair by” touching real life black hair on real life black women. 

The organizers of the event from describe the event as: “an interactive public art exhibit, dubbed You Can Touch My Hair, where strangers from all walks of life will have the welcomed opportunity to touch various textures of black hair.”

The exhibit took place Thursday evening and will take place once again on Saturday, June 6 from 2 to 4pm in NYC’s Union Square Park. For more information visit 

North Carolina Repeals Its Racial Justice Act

North Carolina Repeals Its Racial Justice Act

Showing proof of systemic racial bias will no longer be an option to spare North Carolina death-row inmates from execution. On Wednesday the North Carolina legislature repealed its Racial Justice Act, the only law of its kind of the nation, which allowed death-row inmates to appeal their cases if they could show that racial bias played a role in their sentencing.

Racial justice advocates have said that the law, which has undergone revisions, is a necessary and important tool which acknowledged the reality of well-documented systemic racial discrimination and racial disproportionality in the criminal justice system. But critics argued that the law is more troublesome than it’s worth, and has been exploited by people who are using it as an indirect way to halt executions around the state. Since its passage, critics pointed out, the Racial Justice Act has been invoked by all but two death-row inmates, including those who are white. 

Kentucky, too, has a Racial Justice Act, but it is not retroactive. Defendants may only invoke the law prior to trial. In that way, North Carolina’s law was singularly unique. Since it was enacted in 2009, the law has been plagued by controversy and repeal efforts. This week, those voices won.

“It’s incredibly sad,” Rep. Rick Glazier, a supporter of the law, told the New York Times. “If you can’t face up to your history and make sure it’s not repeated, it lends itself to being repeated.”

Colorado Joins Parade of States Granting Driver’s Licenses to the Undocumented

Colorado Joins Parade of States Granting Driver's Licenses to the Undocumented

On Wednesday Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper made Colorado the eighth state in the nation to extend driver’s license eligibility to undocumented immigrants, Reuters reported.

Colorado’s law requires that applicants show identification from their home country, proof of residence in Colorado and a state income tax return, and they must be renewed every three years.

Driver’s licenses for the undocumented are a heated issue—as is just about any kind of right undocumented immigrants could have—but lawmakers have increasingly observed that it’s not even so much an issue of immigrant rights as it is primarily one of public safety. Immigrant rights advocates in New Mexico have defended their state’s driver’s license law by showing that extending driver’s license access decreases the number of uninsured drivers on the road, and increases the likelihood that people report accidents, pay fines and speak to authorities.

It’s been a big year for undocumented immigrants and driver’s licenses. Just last week the Connecticut state Senate passed its own driver’s license bill, which Gov. Daniel Malloy has pledged to sign. In recent weeks Oregon and Nevada passed their own laws, as well. 

The Colorado law will go into effect on August 1, 2014.

Whole Foods Suspends Workers For Speaking Spanish

Whole Foods Suspends Workers For Speaking Spanish

Not everything is healthy at Whole Foods. Two employees at the natural foods supermarket chain in Albuquerque, New Mexico are saying that they were suspended for speaking Spanish to each other during work hours.

From NBC Latino:

Bryan Baldizan told The Associated Press he and a female employee were suspended for a day after they wrote a letter following a meeting with a manager who told them Spanish was not allowed during work hours.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Baldizan, who works in the store’s food preparation department. “All we did was say we didn’t believe the policy was fair. We only talk Spanish to each other about personal stuff, not work.”

He said Whole Foods officials told them about company policy and issued the suspensions.

One Whole Foods exeuctive told NBC Latino that the company believes in “having a uniform form of communication for a safe working environment.

Hundreds of Teens Behind Bars Report Sexual Assaults by Staffers

Hundreds of Teens Behind Bars Report Sexual Assaults by Staffers

Hundreds of teens are raped and sexually assaulted during their time in the country’s juvenile detention centers, according to a new survey released today by the U.S. Department of Justice. And most of the assualts happen at the hands of staff members working at these facilities. 

The survey covered by both secure juvenile detention facilities and group homes, and involved more than 8,500 boys and girls. In total, 1,720 of those surveyed reported being sexually assaulted, and some of them said that they had been violated on more than 10 occassions. There are currently roughly 70,000 young people in the country’s juvenile detention facility.

Allen Beck, the author of the report, said that the rate of staff assaults on juvenile inmates is more than three times higher than that of adults.

More from ProPublica’s Joquain Sapien:

The highest incidence of staff sexual misconduct occurred in Ohio, South Carolina, Georgia and Illinois, while other states like New York, Massachusetts and Delaware, reported no abuse. At the Paulding Regional Youth Detention Center in Georgia and the Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility in Ohio, one in three youngsters surveyed said they’d suffered sexual abuse at the hands of staff members. 


The report gives some insight into how staff members victimize the youngsters under their care and supervision. In the majority of cases, the survey found, staff members establish a personal relationship with the inmate first by sharing details of their personal lives, sharing pictures, or giving gifts. The report indicates that one instance of abuse usually leads to more. 

Read more about the survey over at ProPublica and see the entire survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. 

Report: Immigration Enforcement Takes Heavy Toll On Kids’ Physical And Mental Health

Report: Immigration Enforcement Takes Heavy Toll On Kids' Physical And Mental Health

There’s been lots of talk recently about what immigration reform could mean for families. But with all attention on the reform of citizenship and border enforcement laws, it’s easy for policy-makers to miss the day-to-day fallout of the country’s immigration policy. A new report released yesterday by the Oakland-based health advocacy group Human Impact Partners finds that the congressional failure to pass immigration reform, coupled with the Obama administration’s historic levels of deportation, has punishing effects on the mental and physical health of the nearly 5 million American kids whose undocumented parents are threatened with deportation. 

“If the current rate of deportation continues, 152,000 children this year will have a parent detained or deported and this actually creates a change in the health of these children including issues like detachment,” said Lili Farhang, one of the report’s authors.

Human Impact Partners based its findings on original research and analysis of existing data and studies on the children of immigrants and of deportees. The report reads:

[T]hese children and their families live with anxiety about the future, fearful that arrest, detention or deportation will tear their families apart. Anxiety and fear are only part of the damaging impacts of their families’ precarious legal status. Children of the undocumented may also suffer from poverty, diminished access to food and health care, mental health and behavioral problems and limited educational opportunities—particularly when a parent is arrested and detained or deported.”

The researchers reviewed over 500 responses to a survey of immigrant parents and their children. The sample included undocumented and documented adults so that the researchers could compare the potential impact of a legalization program.

The authors found that children of undocumented parents were less likely to see a doctor or mental health professional and that three-quarters of the undocumented mothers and fathers surveyed said that their children experienced symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, compared to forty percent of documented parents’ kids. Similarly, undocumented parents themselves reported feeling increased levels of stress, fearfulness, sadness, withdrawal and anger.  The health outcomes are a result of fears of deportation and the economic effects of undocumented status, which increases poverty and food insecurity.  

The increased levels of stress and fear and other health problems are unsurprising in the face of the deportation of 90,000 parents of U.S. citizen kids each year, a number that revealed in December though a Freedom of Information Act request.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., who has introduced legislation to protect children from long term separation from their detained and deported parents, said the findings “should shock our conscience” and demand immediate action by the Obama administration.

“While it’s critical that any comprehensive immigration reform proposal include protections for immigrant families, this study shows we can’t continue waiting for Congress to act,” Roybal-Allard said in a statement. “I once again call on the Administration to end the unjust deportation of parents.”

The authors recommend a broad path to citizenship and a rollback of federal programs that use local cops to enforce immigration laws. They call for the inclusion of immigrants on a path to citizenship in federal health programs. The current immigration reform bill in the Senate excludes immigrants who apply for legal status from federal healthcare programs and subsidies.

Disclosure:  I provided early research advice to the authors of the report.

Dramatic Reading of Racist YouTube Comments Left on ‘What Kind of Asian Are You?’ Video

Dramatic Reading of Racist YouTube Comments Left on 'What Kind of Asian Are You?' Video

Last week we posted a YouTube Comedy Week video that poked fun of people who ask Asian-Americans  “What Kind of Asian Are You?”

The creators of the video are back with a new video in which actors Stella Choe and Scott Beehner read some of the terrible racist comments left on the original video.

The original video was co-directed by David Neptune and Ken Tanaka—I should note Tanaka is a character developed by comedian David Ury. Ury plays a white guy adopted by a Japanese family in search of his biological parents in the U.S. Video below.  

Kid President’s Got a Plan to Fix U.S. Education [VIDEO]

Kid President's Got a Plan to Fix U.S. Education [VIDEO]

Everyone’s favorite future president has a message for the country. There’s no way he’ll get to the Oval Office unless he gets through school first. And what he, and schoolchildren around the country need are simple: access to healthy food, early education and an engaging, vibrant classroom experience.

That’s the message he and a cast of other irresistibly cute kids are sharing as part of a new video produced by SoulPancake for the Schott Foundation’s Opportunity to Learn Campaign. (Disclosure: Schott Foundation is a funder of the Applied Research Center, which publishes

The three asks are seemingly simple enough. But far too many kids go to school in the U.S. without access to any of the three. And the political conversation about these issues quickly becomes a distant abstraction for people. “When you talk to folks about the opportunity gap in education, most people don’t really know what you’re talking about,” said Joe Bishop, the executive director of the Opportunity to Learn Campaign. 

But the opportunity gap is real. More than 22 percent of the nation’s kids live in poverty, Bishop said, and fewer than half of U.S. children have access to pre-kindergarten. It turns out that these sorts of barriers end up having a huge impact on kids’ educational success. Researchers are finding that the achievement gap between kids who are wealthy—and have access to reliable health care, three square meals a day and early education—and those who are poor—and who must sometimes do without any of those three—shows up even before kindergarten. And because a disproportionate number of black and Latino families live in poverty, the opportunity gap is especially relevant to communities of color.

So listen up when Kid President talks. And head to the Opportunity to Learn page to learn more.

Attorney General Holder Memorializes Civil Rights Patriot Medgar Evers

Attorney General Holder Memorializes Civil Rights Patriot Medgar Evers

Fifty years ago, a white supremacist named Byron De La Beckwith shot and killed civil rights activist Medgar Evers as he stood in the driveway of his home in Jackson, Mississippi. The assassin’s bullet did what years of death threats, firebombings and other racialized intimidation had attempted, by ending his life, but it also invigorated civil rights activists throughout the South and beyond.

Today, a wreath was laid at the Arlington National Cemetary in Washington, D.C. during a service memorializing the life of Medgar Evers, who served as the NAACP’s first field secretary of the South. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at the ceremony and recognized Evers’ work as “the foundation” that led to Barack Obama becoming the first black president and he becoming the first black head of the justice department.  

“We gather today to thank Medgar Evers for his vision, his leadership, and his enduring impact,” said Holder. “In the eye of history he stands with Garvey, Malcolm, Wilkins and King.”

Holder noted that on June 11, 1963, Evers’ last day alive, “two brave students,” James Hood and Vivian Malone integrated the University of Alabama under the protection of National Guard, whose armed staff had to escort the two past a hostile Gov. George Wallace who stood in front of the university’s doors. Malone would later become Holder’s sister-in-law. 

“Those of us who are old enough to remember that infamous ‘Stand in the Schoolhouse Door’ will never forget that moment, the progress that it marked, or the justice it secured,” said Holder. “Nor will we forget that, years earlier, Medgar Evers - who came from a family that had long fought against racial oppression - showed the same incredible courage when he did what was unthinkable then:  registering to vote and applying to the University of Mississippi Law School.”

Evers’ wife Myrlie Evers-Williams and a number of civil war veterans have continued to keep Evers’ legacy alive, and have ceremonies planned over the next seven days in his commemmoration. Many of those services will be in Jackson, Miss., where an African American named Chokwe Lumumba just was elected mayor after defeating another African American, Cornelius Griggs, who ran independently. It’s also a state where hate crimes and racial discrimination is still prominent.  

“Mississippi is a race-haunted place,” Susan Glisson, director of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi, told NPR.  “It took grass roots — women and children and men — to lead the effort for social change, and it was much harder in Mississippi than other places. And that story needs to be told. It’s not just this easy, Martin stood up and Rosa sat down and everybody’s free.”

Got a Question About LGBT Organizing in the South? Let’s Hear It

Got a Question About LGBT Organizing in the South? Let's Hear It

From the recent spike in hate crimes against queer and transgender folks to the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, LGBT rights have been in the news a lot lately. For generations the South has been fertile ground for innovative organizing strategies, and that’s certainly the case in today’s world of working toward equity in LGBT communities. This week’s publisher, the Applied Research Center, released our latest briefing paper on LGBT and racial justice organiainzg. “Better Together in the South: Building Movements Accross Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation” is an important look at those working at the intersection of rights and racial justice. More directly, it showcases the work of an engaged cohort of groups who work on issue areas that range from employment, religion, immigration, and police reform — just to name a few.

Starting next week, we want you — yes, you — to be part of the conversation. At 2pm EST on Tuesday, June 11, I’ll be hosting a live video chat with Paulina Helm-Hernandez of Atlanta-based Southerners On New Ground (SONG) and Bishop Toniya Rawls of the Freedom Center for Social Justice in Charlotte, North Carolina. We’ll talk about the communities they’re helping to bring together, and their thoughts on what the rest of the country can be learning from the South. Tune in live at, and tweet your questions in with the hashtag #CLchat — I’ll read them live on air!

Susan Rice Becomes Third African American to Lead National Security

Susan Rice Becomes Third African American to Lead National Security

This morning, President Obama announced that he would be assigning the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice to the role of national security advisor, a position left open when Tom Donilon resigned from the post. In her new role, Rice will work directly with President Obama from the White House as his senior advisor on national security matters, and operates from the White House’s “Situation Room” during times of crisis. 

Rice’s name was floated last year as a possible lead contender to become secretary of state when Hillary Clinton retired from the role. But Republicans in the Senate vowed not to confirm her for that position, citing perceived missteps in the Benghazi flap while other conservatives claimed that Susan Rice was a “black radical.” Environmentalists also disapproved of Rice for State and accused her of being invested in creating the Keystone XL oil tar sands pipeline that they strongly oppose. She’s also been accused of enabling massive violence throughout Africa. 

As national security advisor to Obama, she does not need to be confirmed by the Senate nor win the approval of special interests. She’s expected to take up the West Wing of the White House in July. She is the third African American to assume this role. The first was Gen. Colin Powell, who served under Ronald Reagon in the late 1980s. Like Powell, Rice is of Jamaican lineage. She is also the second African-American woman for national security advisor, after Condoleezza Rice who served under George W. Bush. 

Rice will still have to contend with Republicans and conservatives who oppose her on sensitive national security issues like Benghazi. 

“She’s going to have her plate full, if she’s chosen,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told The Washington Post.  “I will not be petty. I will put my differences on Benghazi aside and work with her.”

Filling Rice’s U.N. ambassador role is Samantha Power, who formally worked on Obama’s National Security Council and has been outspoken on genocide across the globe. Power’s nomination will have to be confirmed before the Senate. 

Trayvon Martin’s Parents Speak Ahead of Next Week’s Trial

Trayvon Martin's Parents Speak Ahead of Next Week's Trial

Trayvon Martin’s parents spoke about their feelings ahead of next week’s trial. “Right now, we can’t stop. If we stop, the world will stop,” Martin’s father, Traycee, told MSNBC’s Trymaine Lee.

Civil Rights Activist Chokwe Lumumba Elected Mayor of Jackson, Miss.

Civil Rights Activist Chokwe Lumumba Elected Mayor of Jackson, Miss.

Civil Rights activist and attorney Chokwe Lumumba is now the mayor of Mississippi’s capitol city, Jackson. The former Jackson City Councilman received about 85 percent of the vote, according to The Grio. 

Lumumba wrote on Facebook Tuesday night, “Thank you, Jackson. None of this would be possible without faith and your support.” He went on to say, “This is the people’s victory. Together we will make Jackson rise!”


TAGS: Mississippi

‘Awkward Black Girl’ Issa Rae to Play Role as Nina Simone

'Awkward Black Girl' Issa Rae to Play Role as Nina Simone

Move over, Zoe Saldana. ‘Awkward Black Girl’ creator Issa Rae will play Nina Simone in an upcoming biopic of Lorraine Hansberry. From Atlanta Black Star:

The biopic, which is currently in development, will star Hansberry’s grandniece, Taye, as the late author and playwright. Jaleel White, who is best known for his role as Steve Urkel in Family Matters, will play author James Baldwin.

Numa Perrier, who previously penned the script for series The Couple and appeared in “The Call” episode of ABG, will direct the film.

It’s an exciting time for Issa Rae. In addition to her new film role, she’s also set to make her network television debut as the wirter and co-producer of Shonda Rhimes’s upcoming ABC comedy series “I Hate L.A. Dudes.”

Hate Violence Against LGBT Community Is On a Dangerous Rise

Hate Violence Against LGBT Community Is On a Dangerous Rise

It’s been less than a month since the brutal slaying of Mark Carson, an openly gay black man who was shot and killed in New York City’s West Village. Police continue to investigate Carson’s death as a hate crime and have had a suspect in custody since early on in the case, but the murder has become one of the more prominent examples of a frighetening increase in hate crimes targeting people in LGBT communities. 

That increase is the focus of a new report on anti-LGBT hate violence released today by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. The report looks specifically at incidents of reported violence that took place in 2012 and found that transgender people of color were among the most impacted communities. 

“Though the recent spate of hate violence incidents in New York City has captured the media’s attention, this report demonstrates that severe acts of violence against gay men, transgender people and LGBTQ people of color are, unfortunately, not unique to Manhattan nor to the past month, but rather part of a troubling trend in the United States,” said Chai Jindasurat, NCAVP Coordinator at the New York City Anti- Violence Project.

The report is the most comprehensive look at hate crimes against LGBT communities in the U.S. It draws on data from 15 anti-violence programs in 15 states.

Some of the key findings:

  • LGBTQ people of color were 1.82 times as likely to experience physical violence compared to white LGBTQ people
  • Gay men were 1.56 times as likely to require medical attention compared to other survivors reporting. 
  • There were 2,016 incidents of anti-LGBTQ violence in 2012.
  • In 2012, NCAVP documented 25 anti-LGBTQ homicides in the United States, which is the 4th highest yearly total ever recorded by NCAVP.
  • The 2012 report found that 73.1 percent of all anti-LGBTQ homicide victims in 2012 were people of color. Of the 25 known homicide victims in 2012 whose race/ethnicity was disclosed, 54 percent were Black/African American, 15 percent Latino, 12 percent white and 4 percent Native American.

Want to know more? See the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program’s new report.


Report: Feds Lock Children in Adult Immigration Detention

Report: Feds Lock Children in Adult Immigration Detention

New federal data released today by an advocacy group reveals that in the last four years,  at least 1,366 kids were locked up in adult immigration detention centers for more than three days. The majority were held in the jails for more than a week and 15 for more than six months. Federal rules require that minors be released from the facilities in less than three days.

The data, obtained by the National Immigrant Justice Center, a Chicago-based non-profit, comes as Congress considers a number of reforms to the immigration detention system as part of the Senate’s immigration reform bill. The detention of minors is presumed already to be unlawful becuse of a 1997 legal settlement and the immigation agency’s own protocols.

Many of the young immigrants in the facilities were held in privately operated facilities or county jails that have contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. More than 900 of those detained were 17-years-old and an additional 400 were 15 or 16 years old.  Two of the detained children were under the age of ten.

Currently, ICE us supposed to send children deemed to be unaccompanied, which means they have no legal guardian who can take them, to shelters run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. ORR often places the children in contracted foster care.  Children who are not unaccompanied, either because they were detained along with family or have clearly identified relatives, remain in ICE custody.  They are supposed to be released or placed in facilities appropriate for kids. As the LA Times reports, 3,800 immigrant minors are now held in juvenile detention facilities around the country.

But the new data reveals that in at least 1,366 cases, ICE has not followed its own rules and has locked minors in adult facilities.



TAGS: detention

North Carolina Republican Lawmaker Likens Civil Rights Protesters to ‘Crazies’

North Carolina Republican Lawmaker Likens Civil Rights Protesters to 'Crazies'

Over 1,600 protesters swarmed the legislative chambers in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina to voice opposition to a barrage of laws conservative lawmakers have proposed that would scale back benefits to low-income households and people of color. Over 150 people were arrested yesterday in the NAACP-led protests, which have been dubbed “Moral Monday.” 

“They [NC General Assembly] are making it harder for the poor and working poor, and those who are sick, to get health care; for children to get an education; for the incarcerated to be redeemed; for people to vote,” said North Carolina NAACP President Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II. “But they are making it easier for the wealthy to get wealthier; for the sick to get sicker; for private schools to flourish; to implement the flawed death penalty and to get guns.”

The protests began in April when college students and clergy gathered in state legislative offices to pray and demonstrate. Back then, Barber said he hoped to prevent North Carolina governor Gov. Pat McCrory from becoming a “21st century George Wallace” by allowing the burdensome legislation — including a strict photo voter ID law and a felony disenfranchisment law — to pass. Over 300 peole have been arrested since then, including local mayors and elected officials.

Republican lawmakers mocked the protesters in the press — Rep. John Blust, who represents Greensboro where civil rights demonstrations against segregations were launched in the 1950s, said he saw the dissenters like “Carolina playing at Duke,” he told the Raleigh News & Observer. “I’m not going to let the Cameron Crazies throw me off my game.”

Grant Program May Incentivize More Weed Arrests Among Blacks

Grant Program May Incentivize More Weed Arrests Among Blacks

Black Americans were nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested on charges of marijuana posession in 2010, even though the two groups smoke weed at similar rates, according to new federal data. The American Civil Liberties Union cites the Edward Bryne Justice Assistantship Grant Program as one possible reason for the disparity. The program incentivizes increasing drug arrest numbers by tying the statistics to funding. Law enforcement then concentrates on low-income neighborhoods to keep those numbers up. 

More at the Atlantic Wire:

The argument resonantes with criticism of the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” program, which overwhelmingly targets young, black or latino men in the city (and, indeed, demonstrates a racial disparity in arrests for marijuana possession). But as the ACLU and the Times show, the problem of racial bias in arrests for possessing a drug that is, after all,  gaining acceptance across the U.S., is a national one. the ACLU found a bias in “virtually every county in the country,” they told the Times,regardless of the proportional population of minorities in that county. 

Back in 2010 the NAACP called the racial discrepency in weed arrests a “civil rights issue.” One year later, to mark the 20th anniversary of the U.S. War on Drugs, author Michelle Alexander told a crowd of 1,000 at Harlem’s Riverside Church back in 2011, “The enemy in this war has been racially defined. The drug war, not by accident, has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color.”

To see just how that war has played out in communities of color, check out our infographic after the jump.

NPR Study Finds That Black Men Want Love, Too

NPR Study Finds That Black Men Want Love, Too

Despite high unemployment and a housing crisis that’s decimated black wealth, African-Americans are generally satisfied with their lives. That’s according to a new study released today by NPR in conjunction with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard’s School of Public Health. Interestingly, the study found that when it comes to dating, black men are looking for long-term, committed relationships more than black women.

Gene Demby has more at NPR’s Code Switch blog:

[Harvard Public Health Professor Robert Blendon] speculated that this, too, might be tied in part to economic concerns. He pointed to studies in which black women are more concerned with the financial stability of their partners than Latinas or white women. And since black women are outpacing black men on a host of metrics that might determine their financial prospects — black women are more likely to attend and graduate college and receive advanced degrees — Blendon says they may be less likely to see much financial upside in pairing up compared to black men. “African-American women appear to have more security than men, and so women [might] see less men who see bring financial security to the table,” he said.

Demby also points out that it’s important to note that the pollsters asked specifically about long-term committed relationships, not marriage. But the numbers still complicate the belief widely held misconception that black women are desperately — and uniquely— looking for long-term love.

TAGS: dating NPR

Brittney Griner’s Nike Contract Just the Latest of Her Barrier-Breaking Moves

Brittney Griner's Nike Contract Just the Latest of Her Barrier-Breaking Moves

Brittney Griner is wasting no time in her barrier-breaking professional career. The #1 WNBA draft pick for the Phoenix Mercury made her professional basketball career debut last month with two dunks in a single game, setting a WNBA record at the same time. And this week she’s on the cover of ESPN magazine’s Taboo issue. In it, writer Kate Fagan reveals that Griner’s Nike contract breaks the mold for female basketball players’ endorsement deals.

Not only is Griner the first openly gay athlete to sign with Nike, her contract will allow her to wear clothes branded as menswear. It’s in keeping with Griner’s personal expression of her gender and sexuality, something she’s been forging since high school.

Fagan writes:

In the fall of 2005, the six-foot Griner showed up at Nimitz High wearing men’s sneakers, oversize jeans and a baggy shirt, trying the stud label on for size. Her friends looked her up and down and said, “All right, B, we see you,” putting her at ease. She also took up basketball that year, making the jump from volleyball, then grew six more inches before her sophomore season. The taunts didn’t stop — when she entered a gym, guys would yell, “Yo, you can untuck now!” — but Griner felt reborn. “I decided to just put myself out there,” she says. “When I’m in a dress, it’s like, ‘What am I doing in this?’ I feel trapped, like I’m in shackles and handcuffs and a straitjacket. So I was just like, F—- it, I’m going to wear what I want. I caught hell for it, but it felt so good being myself.”

Androgynous models are coveted in high-end fashion, but the trend toward gender-neutral clothing has only just begun to reach the sports world, with NBA stars Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade blurring the lines in their tight jeans and fitted sweaters. No sports apparel company has taken it a step further and expressly targeted the gender-fluid crowd — and whether Nike is willing to ride the edge with Griner remains to be seen. “We can’t get into specifics,” says Nike spokesman Brian Strong, “but it’s safe to say we jumped at the opportunity to work with her because she breaks the mold.”

Griner relishes the chance to show her evolved style, saying she doesn’t see herself as a certain “type” anymore. Others might call her a stud, but she’s just BG now. “It clicked for me,” she 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 article is a great conversation of gender, sexuality, style and sports icons. And it’s a beautiful portrait of Griner and her hard-won self-assurance. Read the rest at

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