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Nike calls out gender stereotypes with powerful new ad

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Serena Williams narrates the “Dream Crazier” ad featuring Caster Semenya and other women

Serena WIlliams is among the empowering women showcased in the new Nike ad.
Screenshot via YouTube

Nike has a message for athletes and fans: women can and do express emotions, can and do compete in sports, can and should keep aiming higher to achieve the very best.

“If we show emotion we’re called dramatic. If we want to play against men, we’re nuts. And if we dream of equal opportunity, delusional,” says tennis superstar Serena Williams as she narrates images of women showing every emotion from losing their shit to getting teary-eyed and motivated.

“When we stand for something, we’re unhinged. When we’re too good, there’s something wrong with us,” Williams continues. “And if we get angry, we’re hysterical, irrational, or just being crazy.”

The point of the campaign, Nike says, is that women are just doing it. “So if they want to call you crazy, fine,” Williams says. “Show them what crazy can do.”

“Dream Crazier” ad by Nike
Screenshot from YouTube

“The ‘Dream Crazier’ spot is the start of a journey celebrating women in sport ahead of soccer’s biggest moment in France this summer,” a spokesperson for the outfitter told Adweek in a statement. “It is about helping athletes realize their full potential even in the face of adversity.”

“A woman running a marathon was crazy. A woman boxing was crazy. A woman dunking, crazy. Coaching an NBA team, crazy. A woman competing in a hijab; changing her sport; landing a double-cork 1080.”

The 90-second commercial debuted during the Academy Awards telecast on ABC Sunday night.

Williams, who was the star of a 30-second spot that debuted during the Oscars last year, appears in the ad as well as narrates it. Long a target of racist and sexist attacks, Williams was penalized in September 2018 for her display of outrage during the U.S. Open final. She was fined $17,000 for breaking her racket in anger, and was accused of directing “verbal abuse” toward a chair umpire. Just the kind of stuff used to accuse Williams of being “crazy.”

But as the world knows, and Williams reminds us, she’s also the athlete who, as she says in the ad, went on to “win 23 grand slams, have a baby, and then come back for more.”

Some of the other athletes include gymnast Simone Biles, hijab-wearing fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, snowboarder Chloe Kim, members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, 15-year-old female football player Sam Gordon, and for the second time in a Nike campaign, two-time 800m Olympic champion Caster Semenya.

Semenya is awaiting a verdict by the Court for Arbitration for Sport as to whether she can compete like every other woman, without medical intervention to suppress her naturally high levels of testosterone. A decision is expected next month.

Nike launches the ad amid a controversial climate for women athletes, not just because of the Semenya case, but also because of a clash between tennis icon Martina Navratilova and those like her who oppose transgender inclusion in sports, and the national and international organizations that for the most part permit trans women to compete as women, within set guidelines.

And Nike has its own problems related to an injury sustained by Duke’s Zion Williamson in the first 33-seconds of the UNC game last week, when his Nike sneaker blew apart. SBNation’s Duke Report says Duke is sticking with Nike, following an on-campus meeting. Nike stock is slowly rebounding from a $1 billion drop in value following that blowout.

Interesting trivia note from Adweek: this new Nike commercial was directed by Kim Gehrig, who also directed an ad for Gillette that challenged toxic masculinity.