As a top three pick, four-time All-American and four-time All-Star, Skylar Diggins-Smith still lacks the resources of a professional athlete and she is taking a stand.
Puma recently tapped the basketball star to be a Team Captain for their social change initiative, #REFORM. Along with other celebrities like entertainer, Meek Mill, and civil rights icon, Tommie Smith, Skylar will use her platform to speak out about issues important to her, like gender equality and specifically the staggering pay gap between male and female athletes.
The history of entertainers standing up for civil rights has been ingrained in the culture of Puma. Their initiatives to support civil rights reforms lead to their partnership with legendary Olympic Sprinter, Tommie Smith, over 50 years ago. Tommie’s Silent Gesture of lowering his head and raising his fist at the 1968 Olympics brought awareness to discrimination and human rights abuses at the time.
These injustices continue in to present day with multi-platinum rapper, Meek Mill. A native to Philadelphia, Meek’s entanglement in the criminal justice system has spanned his entire adult life. As his fans protest the recurring technical probation violations for the most minimal of police contact, Meek regularly highlights the disproportionate number of black and brown people affected by the bias inherent within the criminal justice system.
Puma CEO, Bjorn Gulden, acknowledges the company’s obligation to help with these strategies, given their notoriety. The global sports brand intends to form a worldwide team of #REFORM Captains. Gulden confirms, “America is currently our biggest market. I think this movement started in the U.S. but this is going to happen worldwide because there are issues everywhere. “
Gender disparity has been the fuel behind many fiery movements this year. For Skylar Diggins-Smith, it’s beyond a pay gap. WNBA players lack many of the resources afforded to their male counterparts.
“We play in the same game jerseys all year. We practice in the same practice stuff all year. We have a certain amount of money we could spend. At the beginning of the season, we had jerseys that didn’t fit us. We needed to reorder new jerseys so they took that out of our allotment. As miniscule as that is, it’s so symbolic to me.”
The basketball star has a range of solutions to help with the imbalance. Even the sports media coverage shows bias toward male-dominated arenas.
“I love ESPN. I think they’re the worldwide leader, but I only see 10% of women sports represented on there. Even representation within journalism, there’s no diversity in our journalism. Who I’m talking to are mostly white men, creating our sports stories as women.”
Skylar encourages players to negotiate more with their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Every player has the opportunity for input but she insists they must come with a unified message. The Dallas Wings player applauds her organization saying, “I think the WNBA is one of the best at sending a unified message. We have power in our voices.”
These Teams are committed to real social advancement. With the expansion of the #REFORM Team Captains, Puma will be able to increase global awareness and fund specific initiatives for change. Gold-medalist Tommie Smith encourages everyone to be engaged. Although he faced extreme backlash during his Silent Gesture, he didn’t waver.
“Be exact about a response no matter what people have to say about you, with you, or too you. Come forward and say it loud.”