It’s November, which means a new NBA season is now in full swing. The excitement and hope that most fans have for their favorite team has yet to wear off. You’ve probably been waiting to break out your jerseys and shirts with your team’s logo to wear on game days. Unless you’re a female fan, that is. If you’re like me, you don’t own much NBA merchandise that you are proud to wear. You most likely have a youth jersey that doesn’t fit quite right, or men’s shirts that you tailored yourself because it’s so difficult to find reasonably priced women’s clothing that isn’t horrifyingly ugly. The lack of quality merchandise for women should no longer be surprising to anyone, but it should definitely continue to draw your ire.
I recently headed over to NBAstore.com to see if there was anything I was remotely interested in buying after I realized all of my Trail Blazers gear is sadly outdated. I took one look at the “NBA4Her” section and was instantly reminded of why I haven’t purchased anything in close to three years. Within 30 seconds, I was completely repulsed by some of the products the NBA wants women to buy. It’s painfully obvious that the league thinks “looking hot” should be the main priority for female fans. Lace thong, anyone? “With this thong, you’ll be able to sit back in comfort, knowing that you’ve taken your Bulls fanaticism to a whole new level!” according to the description. I shouldn’t have to tell you how creepy and uncomfortable it is for a league run by men to tell women what underwear they should wear to games. Perhaps a cleavage-baring “frisky henley tank top” with a barely noticeable logo is more your style. “You’ll probably catch the glances of a few fellas.” What could be more important than that, am I right, ladies? The message the NBA is sending to women with these products (and their descriptions) is that if you want to support your favorite team, you sure as hell better look cute. What woman would ever have the goal of expressing their love of hoops when they should be worried about catching the eye of potential suitors?
It didn’t take long for my disgust to turn to laughter from the sheer absurdity of the items that I saw. If there was a competition to find the worst product, clip-in hair extensions, fringe bikini tops, pink compact mirrors, and furry boots would all be in the running for first place.The descriptions for these items are just as appalling as the ones for the thong and tank top. The compact mirror might be my favorite: “Ladies, touch up your makeup while cheering on your Jazz with this girly team compact mirror.” It’s nice that they have enough confidence in us to be able to do two things at once. The NBA can’t be this clueless, can they? (Yes.) Who is buying those items? (No one.) They are basically white elephant gifts. And I’m not talking about the good kind that gets stolen three times.
But as bizarre as these products are, the league has actually made some slight improvements in this area in recent years. It appears they no longer sell pink jerseys, which is great since it’s not a single team’s color and no woman I know would have ever purchased one of those things even if you had a gun to their head. We can only hope the league will ditch pink products altogether; however, that might be too much to ask considering a search for the word “pink” has 273 hilarious results. The new jerseys they have are the right colors and actually look surprisingly similar to the ones the players wear on the court, if you ignore the adidas stripes going down both the sides. Baby steps, I guess.
I know that I don’t speak for all female fans, but it’s safe to say that I’m far from the only one who feels like the NBA does not care about what I want. If they did, they would have asked me and the hundreds of knowledgeable and dedicated female NBA fans that are on Twitter by now. They’d learn that we don’t want tacky, overpriced jewelry, sequined purses, or shirts bedazzled with Swarovski crystals. Simple t-shirts that display our fandom instead of our bodies and “girliness” would be a great starting point.
It’s hard to feel like the NBA values women as consumers when they aren’t listening to how they can improve our fan experience — and I can tell you that it’s already pretty difficult to be a woman who loves sports. We constantly have to prove to others that we are here because we truly love the game, not because we are trying to impress men that might want to date us. We certainly aren’t here so we can “look hot” for male fans. Yet that is the message that the NBA clearly sends us with their pathetic “NBA4Her” merchandise. We can’t really expect others to take us seriously as fans when the very league we are trying to support seems to respect us the least.
Follow Lindsay on Twitter at @lindsaymills.