Did Nike supply Norway’s women’s team with men’s kits?

Making women’s clothes shouldn’t be difficult, especially for a huge apparel manufacturer like Nike. We know this not only because common sense tells us a major company that “believe(s) diversity and inclusion drives innovation” would keep women’s apparel in mind but because Nike already supplies clothing to other prominent women’s sports entities. In the soccer world, that includes the United States’ women’s national team, as well as all the uniforms for this country’s top women’s division: the National Women’s Soccer League.

First paragraph of Nike's "Overview," Doing Business With Nike, http://about.nike.com/pages/company-profile.

First paragraph of Nike’s “Overview,” Doing Business With Nike, http://about.nike.com/pages/company-profile.

All of which makes it more curious that Norway’s women’s soccer team, qualified to take part in this summer’s Women’s World Cup, doesn’t seem to have kits that fit. As of January, Nike is contracted to supply the team’s kits, but according to a report from Reuters, the company appears to be repurposing men’s cut (“unisex”) uniforms for the team.

The result: baggy kits that hang off players’ shoulders “like tents” … as if they were intended to be worn by an entirely different body type. Go figure.

While Nike has designed a kit for the country’s men’s team, ranked 70th in the world by FIFA, the 11th-ranked women’s team is left without uniforms that fit.

“We know they have done their best and that they haven’t had much time,” team captain Trine Roenning explained, “but it is a bit unfortunate that we should walk around with strips that look like tents.”

That seems too diplomatic. Either Nike takes its obligation seriously, or it doesn’t. Even if the company isn’t getting the appropriate pressures from the Norweigan federation (whose head of marketing quipped “it takes time to get the partnership working”), Nike should still be concerned about the optics. How does it look when your company appears to prioritize a lesser-ranked men’s team, one without a major tournament in the immediate future, over a women’s team that has a world title?

It looks terrible, though it would be too much to ignore another possibility. Nike may be following directions from its client, though according to Reuters, no Norweigan women’s kit is even designed yet, let alone produced. And when Nike partnered with the NWSL to supply the league’s inaugural kits two years ago, the circuit’s eight teams could only choose from preexisting colors that fit a single, league-wide template.

Clothing shouldn’t be this hard. You can either deliver, or you can’t. Nike is one of the world’s largest apparel manufacturers, so it’s unreasonable to believe it couldn’t have delivered, if asked to do so. In a world where men’s kits vastly outsell women’s, there’s a more likely causation to assume.

Either the company was asked to deliver a women’s kit in time for the World Cup, or it just didn’t want to. Regardless, somebody needed to get their shit together. It’s only the World Cup.

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