Courtside Column: What's in a sneaker?

Natalie White looked at women's basketball sneakers and didn't like what she saw. So she started her own brand.

Hello and welcome to Courtside.

Take a break from the game. Pull up a chair. Settle in. Have some water. And relax. 

Now and again, I’ll be posting columns focusing on what’s happening in the WNBA or sharing my thoughts about basketball-related current events, issues, and/or players in the news cycle. 

Let’s get to the Courtside Column.

Photo provided by Natalie White

Meet Natalie White.

White is a 23-year-old queer baller, entrepreneur and athlete. While growing up in Manhattan, NY, White found herself playing basketball on park courts in Brooklyn and the Bronx. She was a part of the premier AAU circuit. But as she got older, she became keenly aware of the differences in quality and availability of men’s and women’s basketball gear — primarily sneakers. The disparity stuck with her through high school and college.

After graduating 10th in her class from Boston College with a degree in finance, everyone, including her former professors, expected White to go into banking. But she decided to start her own sneaker brand instead. When asked why and what her motivation was, White was sincere and detailed in her response:

“We as female basketball players already overcome so many adversities, at the very least, we deserve sneakers that acknowledge our place in the game and fit our feet. The lack of women’s basketball sneakers has a negative social implication that women do not belong in basketball, and a negative performance implication because female feet are different in five places than those of males. When we play in sneakers that are unisex, kids, or men’s, they do not biomechanically fit or support our foot shape. This results in increased risk and rate of injuries to our feet, knees and legs. These experiences and effects are the reason why I founded Moolah Kicks. 

Moolah Kicks is the first women’s basketball sneaker brand. This is a brand that is by and for female ballers, and every single detail of the brand reflects that. For example, the two colorways offered are all white and all grey. These colors were chosen because many high school ballers play on both a school team and travel team, and wanted sneakers that will go with both uniforms.”

According to White, the Moolah name is twofold: It gives a nod to the street culture of basketball and also directly points out the need for more money in women’s sports. Her overall goal is to produce performance women’s basketball sneakers for middle and high school, college and professional players, while working hand in hand with a diverse staff.

The sneakers were designed with the help of women college and WNBA trainers, who understand what type of footwear is needed for optimum play on the court. White is so confident they’ve developed the right product with Moolah Kicks, she wears them herself.

Photo provided by Natalie White

White may be fresh out of college, but she’s not naive. She understands how the business world works. There have been previous attempts at making and marketing women’s basketball sneakers that haven’t been successful. But White also understands what needs to change when it comes to branding and investing in women’s sports, including apparel. She wanted to create something that would not only adequately represent the women’s basketball community but make it a priority — something the big time sneaker brands don’t do.

“This is a really great moment in women’s basketball but we want to make sure that somebody else doesn’t take advantage of it for the wrong reasons,
White said. “We don’t want Nike making a sneaker because there were inequalities in an NCAA women’s weight room and then not making another one for ten years.”

With women’s basketball growing in visibility and becoming more popular than it ever has been before, White believes that it’s the perfect time to make her move. A lane has opened up, and she intends to drive straight at the hoop.

“We are done shopping in the men’s section,” she said. “Done allowing men’s basketball to be the standard. Done asking for weight rooms, more coverage, and our own sneakers. We are taking what we deserve, and making the change ourselves.”

Moolah Kicks drop on May 7th and will be available for preorder until June 7th.

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