‘You Feel Like You Owe Everybody So Much’: Lisa Leslie On What It Was Like To Start A Family As A Top Athlete
Courtesy of Nike

For the last 50 years, Nike has proven its dedication not only to serving athletes, but also to redefining what it means to be one, expanding the definition to include everyone from champions in sport to everyday people, supporting athletes of all backgrounds. For the last 25 years, WNBA trailblazer Lisa Leslie has been there to watch the brand transform, and her own life and priorities as an athlete change, too.

She spoke about that at Nike’s Future 50 for Her event that was recently held in Los Angeles. 

During the three-day event, the Hall of Famer sat down with Nike executive Shannon Glass to co-host the Digital for Her panel to discuss how Nike is introducing new programming across its digital ecosystem that helps the everyday athlete. For example, the latest offerings include a “Hottie Bootcamp” with rapper Megan Thee Stallion and a 48-week program called “Move Like a Mother,” designed to support women at every stage of pregnancy.

Courtesy of Nike

As a mother, Leslie knows how pregnancy can affect an athlete, from comfortability in uniforms and wages, to even the longevity of their careers.

“As mothers, you don’t really get praise for carrying a child and still be able to do the jobs that we do,” she said during the panel. “Everybody has to hide it and you’re trying not to mess up your job. As a player, I got pregnant and our team went from first place to last place and that was really hard because you feel like you owe everybody so much.” 

Leslie is glad to see the way Nike is providing support in that realm. And also how they, along with sports in general are expanding support in regard to important mental health issues too. During Mental Health Awareness Month, the brand launched a new podcast, No Off-Season, to ensure athletes were addressing the important topic.

“When I played, [mental health] was never addressed. It was very taboo and you didn’t talk about it,” she recalled. “I think even culturally, in the African American community, we didn’t really have access to [resources] or even talk about it.” 

She added, “You talk about something that bothers you and your mom’s like, ‘You need to go take a nap; you’re just being dramatic.’ We didn’t address those issues because, in our particular culture, we are always expected to be so strong that you just deal with it.”

But not anymore. In the face of emerging cultural dynamics, Leslie remains optimistic that with refined innovation from a brand like Nike, along with the intersection of sport and culture, the future is and will continue to be in good hands. And the brand is proving that by leaning into the youth.

The panel ended with the viewing of a special Spike Lee project, “Seen It All,” to celebrate Nike’s 50th anniversary. It features Lee’s legendary Mars Blackmon character and a new character, Zimmie, who speaks to the potential of the next 50 years of the brand thanks to the next generation of athletes and changes that have been made.

“I think that it’s an amazing opportunity that this door has been opened to have conversations where even the younger kids will be able to engage and have access,” Leslie says.

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