Aerial Powers on Brittney Griner’s Russian Drug Possession Conviction and WNBA Revenue Sharing

Part of Jordan Brand’s recent success can be attributed to winning over women consumersa business that has tripled at the athletic label since fiscal 2020. One of the major names at the forefront of its female-focused efforts is WNBA star Aerial Powers.

On Wednesday night, Powers — an accomplished athlete and avid gamer who graced the cover of FN in February — was among the many major players in attendance at the 2022 FN Achievement Awards in New York City, where Jordan Brand accepted the Brand of the Year honor. The athletic label tapped Powers as an ambassador in June 2021, and in the same month included her in an instantly iconic image, one that featured Michael Jordan with nine of Jordan Brand’s sponsored WNBA stars.

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Among Jordan Brand’s many moves in 2022 to gain ground with women included the debut of its global Women’s Collective in March, the hiring of 33-year Nike Inc. veteran Tonia Jones as global VP and GM of women’s, and adding 18-year-old baller Kiki Rice — its first name, image and likeness (NIL) signing — to its roster.

Here, Powers shares her thoughts with FN on Jordan Brand’s inroads with women consumers, and touches on pressing topics of today, including fellow WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was convicted on drug possession and smuggling charges in Russia and is serving a nine-year prison sentence.

Another WNBA star, Kelsey Plum, recently said on The Residency Podcast that the league’s players should get paid the same percentage of revenue shared to that of NBA players. What do you think is fair?

I agree with what Kelsey said because the percentage of revenue that players get in the NBA, it’s not comparable. It’s not even close to it. They can sell someone’s jersey and they get a percentage but we don’t get anything [from our jersey sales]. We’re not asking [to get paid] as much as NBA players.”

The WNBA has made moves as of late to benefit its players and get the league in front of more viewers, such as increasing the regular season to 40 games and using charter flights for the Finals. What changes would you like to see next?

“I think they’re doing a better job compared to last year of the games being more visible on television and I’d like to see them continue with that. Social media is huge right now, so I’d like continued support of us on social media as well, but they need to make sure the games are visible. Last night I got into New York, I got to the hotel and the first thing I did was look for what was on TV. NBA was all over television, but the WNBA is not as visible, it’s not as easy to access us. I’m just getting off the flight and I’m like, ‘Let me see what games are on.’ But with the WNBA it’s like, ‘Where do I find the games?’ Or League Pass isn’t working because it’s blacked out in this area. That’s terrible. You pay for League Pass and you can’t even really see the games. Sometimes my mom calls me on game day like, ‘What’s going on?’ and I don’t know how to respond. Just make us more accessible.”

Jordan Brand has bolstered his athlete roster with several WNBA stars, as well as his first NIL singing in Kiki Rice. How would you like to see the roster of women athletes transform?

“I think what is so amazing and crazy — and makes me want me born a couple years back — are the NIL deals now. Not only are they beneficial from both parties, but now you see college athletes, women athletes getting 100k or 300k followers [on social media]. For me, I had dreams to be in the WNBA, I had females that I looked up to. They now have females with NIL deals to look up to. And when you see them rocking the Jordan Brand, that’s only going to help the brand because girls are going to want Js because Kiki’s in them. This is a new thing to them and they want to be like her and wear her shoes. Taking the NIL deals with the girls in college, when you go to Michigan State, for example like me, those followers will follow that team now, and it will be the same thing with Jordan Brand, they’re going to follow the Jordan Brand team.”

You’ve recently worn the Zion Williamson signature shoes on the court, but Jordan Brand has several performance styles to choose from. What will you wear on the court looking ahead?

“The Zions, I really like the first ones because they’re very light. I’m in there dunking. I’m dunking a smaller ball, just not a basketball yet, and I couldn’t really get up with them. They’re comfortable and it allowed me to be a little bit more explosive. I love that shoe. I’m going to try the Lukas. I have some [of Luka Doncic’s signature shoes] at home, and I’m going to try them when I get back from New York this week. That’s all I’ve been thinking about.”

What message would you like to send to people who are paying close attention to the Brittney Griner situation in Russia and where it stands today?

“There’s been a lot of comments about, ‘She did this, she did that so she deserves this.’ I don’t think she deserves this. For me, it’s very hard because when I think about it, especially during the season and playing games, I feel like it could have been any one of us. I feel for her, I know her personally, I’ve played video games with her. I hope that she’s strong enough to get past this. I hope that this fuels her and she’s documenting everything, she’s writing down daily how she feels, what’s happening so when she come back to us she can write a book and maybe profit off of this in some way. Everybody in the world knows about this, everybody’s going to want to read it or hear about or watch it. I wish there was more we could do, the WNBA and the teams. We all wish we could do more.”

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