Celtics guard Jaylen Brown hints at foul play from Nike after the star was passed over for U.S. Olympic team

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When the U.S. men’s basketball team announced on Wednesday morning that the Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard would be leaving the team to focus on the upcoming NBA season, Jaylen Brown seemed like a possible replacement. The Boston Celtics guard plays a similar position to Leonard, and is emerging from a season in which he made his third All-Star team, helped lead his team to an NBA championship, and was named Finals MVP. 

Instead, Team USA chose Brown’s teammate, Derrick White, who will join fellow Celtics player Jason Tatum and Jrue Holiday to round out the 12-man roster heading into the Paris Olympics at the end of the month. 

Perhaps understandably, Brown wasn’t thrilled with the decision, and the Celtics star took to social media shortly after the news broke. Only it wasn’t Team USA he called out—it was the brand behind the little swoosh on the team’s jerseys.

In a post on X late on Wednesday, Brown challenged Nike, one of the biggest sponsors for the U.S. at the Paris Olympics and longtime partner of USA Basketball, asking the apparel company “this what we doing?”

Unlike some of Team USA’s biggest stars, including Kevin Durant, teammate Tatum and Lebron James—who has a lifetime deal estimated to be valued around $1 billion—Brown does not have a signature deal with Nike. He had a deal with Adidas for the first five years of his career, and since then has not signed to another brand. Over the past three seasons, the guard has often worn Nike’s Kobe Bryant line, but has also worn New Balance.

To be sure, not everyone on Team USA is doing business with the Oregon-headquartered apparel company. The Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry has a deal with Under Armour, and Minnesota Timberwolves rising star Anthony Edwards signed a deal with Adidas this week. 

Perhaps even more pertinent, aside from being a free agent in the shoe market, Brown has been a vocal critic of Nike in the past. 

After Kyrie Irving, the controversial point guard for the Dallas Mavericks and former Celtic, shared an antisemitic film on Twitter when he was on the Brooklyn Nets back in 2022, Nike founder Phil Knight said Irving had “crossed a line.” 

Brown then took a shot at the company on social media, criticizing Nike’s ethics and implying the brand was virtue signaling. 

More recently, during the Celtics run to the championship this year, Brown may have poked the bear once more. The 27-year-old guard wore various Kobe shoes throughout the season, only with the ubiquitous Nike swoosh notably absent. 

Meanwhile, White is coming off what was arguably his best season in the NBA since entering the league in 2017. The 30-year guard averaged 15 points a game last season shooting 46% from the field, and was instrumental in helping Boston to win the championship. 

But Brown, who plays a similar position, scored eight more points a game on a higher shooting percentage, almost 50%, and is widely regarded as the second-best player on the team behind superstar Tatum. There are now three members of the 2024 Boston Celtics on the U.S. Olympic squad.

Nike did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fortune.

Following Brown’s latest post on X, Team USA director Grant Hill denied that Nike had anything to do with the decision to take White.

“The responsibility I have is to put together a team—and a team that compliments each other, a team that fits, a team that will give us the best opportunity for success,” Hill said. “And so whatever theories that might be out there, they’re just that. But that’s my responsibility.”

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