An 11-year-old girl’s post on the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance blog – a partnership with The Jewish Week – has gotten the attention of the professional sports world.
In an essay published Aug. 18, Adi Topolosky, a rising, basketball-loving 6th grader at Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, Md., wrote about her search for a pair of Nike sneakers designed and endorsed by Elena Delle Donne, a star for the Washington Mystics WNBA team.
Not only did a local Foot Locker store not carry the shoe, but the clerk told Topolosky and her father that he’d “rather watch paint dry” than watch WNBA basketball or other women’s sports.
Adi and her dad sought an apology from Foot Locker, but, more importantly, Adi wanted “to help bring awareness that women’s sports continue to be devalued in our society.”
“In my opinion, athletic stores that have attire from professional teams, should ensure that they have attire representing both men’s and women’s teams,” she wrote on the JOFA blog.
Adi’s essay was widely shared on social media, including by Delle Donne herself, who tweeted, “Adi, thanks for sharing your experience. Speaking up is the first step, and I’m proud of you! I fell in love with the game through shoes in some ways, so I know what that’s like, and I want kids to be able to get my shoes.”
Added Delle Donne: “It’s important for me and for all the women’s players coming after me….Let’s keep pushing for equality together, and continue to support female athletes.”
In a story in The Washington Post, Adi said she was thrilled to hear from her hero. “I was really excited, and it was such an amazing feeling that my role model had heard me and cared so much about what I said,” said Adi. “Everyone’s just been so supportive. It’s just been a great week.”
Adi never got an apology from Foot Locker, but she’s gotten a ton of support from around the country from readers who shared similar stories of disrespect for women’s achievements. “The stories keep coming in,” her mother, Dahlia Topolosky, told The Post. “It’s really unbelievable. You realize you’re a part of this really big issue.”
With her bat mitzvah planned for March, Adi has been thinking of ways to stand up for causes that she believes in.
“[S]o much more needs to be done to give employees diversity training so they can be better sensitive to issues of gender, culture, and race,” she wrote.
UPDATE: According to a public relations official for Foot Locker, the company made contact with Adi’s parents after reading her account on Aug. 19. Foot Locker officials, including Mid-Atlantic Regional Vice President Reggie Truitt, hosted Adi and her parents at a local store Aug. 27, where she was given a pair of Nike Delle Donne shoes and a Mystics Delle Donne jersey. “We were of course greatly disappointed when we learned of Adi’s experience,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Jewish Week. “We are working with our customer service team to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future, and to use our brand’s platform to elevate and advocate for women’s sports.”