Bad news, bigots: Every major sports brand works with queer influencers like Dylan Mulvaney

Nike's partnership with trans actress Dylan Mulvaney has received huge backlash, but most sports brands have backed the LGBTQ+ community for years.(Credit: Envato / Dylan Mulvaney | Instagram)

When trans actress Dylan Mulvaney shared a video of herself in Nike sportswear on her TikTok, part of a partnership deal with the sports brand, anti-trans campaigners, including former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies, could barely contain their fury.

Davies said she would “boycott” Nike, and shared a photo online of herself wearing New Balance sportswear.

But, despite attempts to drum up anger around Nike working with Dylan Mulvaney, sports brands supporting LGBTQ+ people and causes is nothing new. Big names like Nike, Adidas and – yes – New Balance, have been doing so for years.

Calls to boycott Nike, from Davies among others, came after Mulvaney shared a TikTok clip on 6 April to promote the sportswear brand’s leggings and a sports bra that had been given to her.

Following the backlash, Nike took to Instagram to encourage their customers to be “kind” and “inclusive”, and set boundaries about the presence of “hate speech” and “bullying” on its page.

Speaking to controversial right-wing TV channel GB News, Davies described Mulvaney’s partnership as a “kick in the teeth” and on 8 April took to Twitter to mock Nike’s inclusive collaboration in a photo which she captioned with the hashtags #boycottnike, #fairsport and #SaveWomensSports.

You may like to watch

Right-wing pundits such as Caitlyn Jenner and Oli London also had opinions on the matter.

The backlash led to both Nike and Mulvaney’s Instagram posts being flooded with transphobic comments.

Nike launched inclusive collection in 2012

Nike has supported the LGBTQ+community for many years. In 2012, it launched the gender-inclusive BeTrue collection, and in 2019, its collection paid homage to Gilbert Baker – the artist and activist who designed the rainbow flag in 1978 – to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. 

The sportswear giant has donated $2.2 million (approximately £1.75m) to LGBTQ+ organisations since 2017, and in 2013 it gave $200,000 (approximately £128,000 then) to the LGBT Sports Coalition.

New Balance has released the "Everybody's Welcome" collection for Pride 2021. (New Balance)
New Balance released the Everybody’s Welcome collection for Pride 2021. (New Balance)

Another friend of the queer community is New Balance. In 2021, the firm revealed its Pride collection called Everybody’s Welcome

Alongside the colourful collection, the company pledged to continue its support of GLSEN Sports Project, an organisation that protects the rights of queer student athletes, and the Changing the Game programme, designed to create safer school environments for LGBTQ+ athletes. At the time, New Balance vowed to donate $100,000 (£80,000) over two years.

Meanwhile, Adidas is a huge contributor to LGBTQ+ suicide prevention charity The Trevor Project and it also has a partnership with Athlete Ally and Stonewall, to which it makes an annual donation. In 2021, the sports brand launched its Love Unites collection to coincide with that year’s Pride. 

The brand has consistently given a platform to members and allies of the LGBT+ community, including Tom Daley, drag queen Pabllo Vittar and openly gay American footballer Collin Martin. Last year, it aired its Impossible is Nothing advert featuring trans Brazilian volleyball player Tiffany Abreu

Puma’s Forever Free range, in partnership with Cara Delevingne, was launched to celebrate Pride 2021, while its Together Forever Pride 2022 collection was dedicated to honouring “self-expression and authenticity”. 

Its 2022 campaign featured a cast of LGBTQ+ influencers, including Brinda Iyer, Jalen Dominique and Matt Bernstein.

The sports brand donates proceeds from its Pride-focused lines to the Cara Delevingne Foundation, as well as LGBTQ+ charities GLAAD and The Trevor Project. 

Cara Delevigne and Puma team up for the 'Forever Free' 2021 Pride collection. (Puma)
Cara Delevingne and Puma teamed up for the Forever Free 2021 Pride collection. (Puma)

In 2021, Reebok’s ballroom-inspired collection, All Types of Love, also celebrated Pride, with the brand making a $75,000 (approximately £60,000) donation to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, which works to ensure people are free to self-determine their gender identity and expression without facing discrimination.

Columbia Sportswear is also a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, with one dollar from every sale of its Diversitree line going to GLSEN.

Relative newcomers Under Armour released a special edition HOVR SLK Colorway collection to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

“This isn’t about commercialising a moment, it’s about creating something real and authentic that will make a real impact on the community,” said the sports brand’s Sportstyle design director Katie Lau.

In 2021, other new boys on the block, Peloton, revealed a Pride collection which was continued into 2022 with the fitness-bike company claiming it aims to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community every day.

In the future, Peloton aims to create a gender-neutral Pride apparel collection which will support global LGBTQ+ organisations such as GLADT, the Ali Forney Center, The 519 and London Friend. The company has vowed to donate $25,000 (£20,000) to each organisation in its local currency, according to Women’s Wear Daily.

Kate Hudson’s sports-wear brand, Fabletics, frequently supports LGBTQ+ causes too, with its latest Pride collection donating 10 per cent of the capsule’s net proceeds to the It Gets Better Project, which works to empower and connect LGBTQ+ youth around the world.

Many more companies, including Ugg, Levi’s, Converse and Dr. Martens, also back the LGBTQ+ community, and, most recently, the marketing vice-president of Bud Light explained that it was vital for the beer brand to be more inclusive and ditch its “fratty” reputation to avoid going out of business.