Earps slams ‘harmful’ Nike call not to sell England GK kits

Tom HamiltonSenior writerJul 20, 2023, 12:00 PM ET6 minute reading

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BRISBANE, Australia — England’s Mary Earps has criticized the team’s kit manufacturers, Nike, for not making the Lionesses’ goalkeeping kit available for sale, saying the call is “hugely disappointing and very hurtful.”

Earps, 30, will be England’s first-choice goalkeeper at the Women’s World Cup and helped steer the team to their European Championship triumph last summer. She was also named the world’s best goalkeeper in the 2022 FIFA best awards, but behind the scenes she has grown increasingly frustrated with Nike’s decision not to make the Lionesses’ goalkeeper kit available to supporters.

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“I can’t really sugar-coat this in any way, so I’m not going to try. It’s hugely disappointing and very hurtful,” Earps told reporters at the Lionesses’ team hotel in Brisbane. “It’s something I’ve fought behind closed doors, I’ve tried to go through the proper channels as much as possible.

“That’s why I haven’t spoken publicly about it, even though I’ve been asked about it a lot over the last few months, because I’ve been trying desperately to find a solution with the FA and with Nike. Unfortunately, it’s become very clear that it’s not possible and there’s not going to be an acceptable solution for the young kids out there.”

“It’s a lot, on a personal level, it’s obviously hugely hurtful given the last 12 months in particular – and I think there’s also been an incredible increase in goalkeeping participation over that year.

“For my own family and friends and loved ones to not be able to buy my shirt like they come out and wear normal clothes and I know it sounds like ‘oh Mary, what a terrible problem’ but on a personal level it’s really hard.”

Earps said she has spoken with Nike about the issue and will seek talks with other goalkeepers after the World Cup to see if that policy can be changed across the board. At present, supporters can buy England goalkeeper kits, but not the women’s shirt.

ESPN has reached out to Nike for comment on why they haven’t produced her shirt for sale, but has yet to hear back. Sources have told ESPN it is a commercial decision.

The Football Association signed a new 12-year deal with Nike in 2016 – with effect from 2018 – with the commitment between the two extending until 2030.

Mary Earps was one of England’s key players during their Euro 2022 triumph.Naomi Baker – FA/FA via Getty Images

The England goalkeeper has since launched her own clothing range, MAE27, with the tagline “be unapologetically yourself”, but she remains frustrated that her fans and family are unable to buy a replica goalkeeper shirt with the Earps on the back.

“I think it’s a huge problem and I think it’s a scary message that’s being sent to goalies all over the world that you’re not important,” Earps said.

“It’s something I’ve really, really struggled with quietly and probably a lesson I’ve learned is that I should have made a public statement sooner, maybe, I don’t know. I look back and think I’ve tried everything.

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“I offered to fund it myself and my teammates have been really supportive as well, and I have to thank them for that. For it to happen in another tournament, it’s really hard to put into words. It’s a really damaging message.”

The Earps feel the decision excludes “a huge part of the demographic.” She has spoken to England goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck about the issue and said she is equally “incredibly disappointed.” She also consulted with her outfield teammates.

“I temperature checked it at the time with Leah [Williamson]Lotte [Wubben-Moy] and a few others and said “am I overreacting girls? Goalie all the way,” and they said “no, that’s absolutely unacceptable and we as a group stand for inclusion and that’s the opposite of what we stand for.”

“They also talked about ‘why do we adapt to brands that don’t have inclusion at the heart, why is it always about the bottom line?’ So there’s been a lot of conversations coming from the back of this topic, so hopefully after the World Cup we can pick up those conversations and as the contracts get restructured, maybe we can have more influence on those things.”

Earps will play in her first Women’s World Cup match when England play in their tournament opener against Group D opponents Haiti on Saturday.

“I’ve been so focused on how it affects us and trying to fight it,” Earps added. “I think the argument is that the men’s goalkeeper shirt is produced in limited quantities.

“I think if that was the conversation we’re having, not enough is being produced. I think it’s one conversation, but that it’s not available at all is a completely different thing, a completely separate issue, and I’m not sure what the other teams have, what their experiences are, because obviously this is a custom Lionesses kit and I think all the Nike teams have a custom kit, I don’t think it’s part of the men’s side.

“If at least you’re doing a custom women’s team kit, then the women’s goalie kit should be available as well. I’m just not sure you’re ruling out somewhere. So I’m not too sure where the lines are, but I definitely think it’s a broader discussion that needs to be had. I’m surprised it hasn’t been talked about more and that was my point in this area for Nike-islea.

“Which is something we pride ourselves on being first and being the best. I think we’re really falling short here.”

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