In an announcement that was supposed to be made a week ago, Natasha Cloud is the newest face of Converse. The quick guard, who recently helped the Washington Mystics win the 2019 WNBA Championship — the first time the organization ever had — was set to be debuted as an ambassador for Converse Basketball. And then the Black Lives Matter protests happened surrounding the police killing of George Floyd and instead of breaking the news, Cloud penned a poignant article titled "Your Silence Is a Knee" for The Players' Tribune.
"Right now, if we're being really real? As a Black person in America, there's only one thing that could possibly BE on my mind," she wrote. "And that's fearing for my life." In the article, Cloud goes deep, discussing the impact and realities of systemic racism against Black communities. In her writing, she makes clear that it's not only those that are actively committing racist acts that are a part of the issue but those who hope to see both sides and remain "neutral" as well.
"There’s no new information to wait for," she wrote. "There’s no other side to hear from. There’s no safe space, no neutral territory to chill in and sit these issues out. Athletes, if you’re reading this….. know that we see you. I’ll repeat that: WE SEE YOU. I love y’all — and like I said, I’m so proud to be one of y’all. But you’re being judged right now the same as everyone else — and if you’re silent, you are part of the problem." In tandem with the letter, Converse followed Cloud's lead and made a $25,000 to an unnamed racial justice organization and Philadelphia and plans to release a film featuring Cloud demanding change according to Washington Post. While statements on issues that could seem divisive and controversial had long been risky for those hoping to bag big dollar sponsorship deals, with Cloud and Converse, her longstanding commitment to use her voice on real issues, has been a selling point.
"For me, having converse a part of everything I do with the community from this point forward is important," Cloud tells Out weeks before the nationwide protests. "Converse has really embraced that part of me; when I go in and talk to them, they allow me to drive and really understand what I want to do with the 'Know Your Why' in the community."
Alongside her career as a star athlete on the court, Cloud has developed a reputation for not only philanthropy but for activism. She's most notably worked against gun violence in southeast D.C., but has lent her time and voice to a smattering of other issues. It all comes under her "Know Your Why" motto.
"Know Your Why actually came from my best friend as something to ground me and that has really carried over into every part of my life," Cloud says. The words have meant so much to her that they are tattooed on her arms. "It’s really about knowing who you are, knowing what you’re doing, what you’re doing it for, and just embracing that journey. it’s something that’s a daily reminder of why I do what I do and why I’m passionate about the things I love."
Cloud's relationship with Converse began last year after the Mystics won the Championship. The five-year WNBA veteran was shot in the brand's Pro Leather campaign. But after, she kept in touch, occasionally texting the team, and on a trip to China, she asked to make the partnership official given that they were clearly aligned.
"It was really cool to see them treat a female athlete just like any other athlete," Cloud says of the process. "They had everything lined up just like they would for my counterparts. For them to embrace me as a female athlete, to embrace me as a bisexual, to embrace me for my voice and activism off the court that can sometimes be controversial, is really cool." Cloud is currently engaged to Chicago Bandits softball player Aleshia Ocasio. The pair have not announced a date for their wedding.
Signing with Converse on Christmas 2019 was a bit of a full-circle moment — Cloud had grown up with her father being a lifelong fan of the brand. At 73-years-old, he still wears Chuck Taylors as a part of his work uniform. Now his 28-year-old daughter, whose favorite Converse style is the Chuck Taylor All Star low tops, will help represent, and shift the brand, for a generation to come.