NEW YORK—A recent Nike commercial featuring star players from both the NBA and NFL also includes an evidently prominent African-American female athlete, though sources confirmed Thursday that not a single viewer knows her name or what sport she plays.
"She's in a Nike commercial, so she's probably very successful in whatever sport she's affiliated with," Ohio resident Vince Shelky, 36, said. "But for the life of me, I couldn't tell you who she is."
"Sheryl Swoopes, maybe?" Shelky added. "Is that somebody?"
The one-minute commercial, which has been airing nationally for over a month, depicts Amar'e Stoudemire, Rajon Rondo, the unidentified female star athlete, DeSean Jackson, and Justin Tuck as high school teachers who demand athletic excellence from their pupils.
At no point during the advertisement are the athletes' names displayed, leading viewers to assume they are supposed to recognize the female athlete, and by extension what sport she represents, the moment they see her on television.
"She is definitely a main character in the commercial," Keith Lauer of Nashville told reporters, adding that he inferred as much because the female athlete walks in slow-motion with the other prominent sports figures at the beginning of the advertisement. "So I assume, like the other members of the fictional faculty, she is a standout at her position, if in fact the sport she plays has positions. They could have at least depicted her jumping or swinging a tennis racket or something to give us some sort of hint as to what she does."
Based on the commercial alone, viewers have reportedly narrowed down the sport the woman plays to either basketball or track and field, saying that if Nike wanted a softball player they probably would have "got that pretty blond one—you know, the pitcher."
Viewers have repeatedly cited one scene in particular, in which the female athlete blows a whistle while students perform drills, as evidence that she is a track star. However, they admitted it is not completely clear whether the sequence is set at a track and field facility, and later acknowledged that both whistles and athletic drills are used in a variety of sports. In addition, because the woman appears to be fairly young, sources have concluded she is more than likely not either of the two Olympic track stars they are peripherally aware of, Jackie Joyner-Kersee or Florence Griffith-Joyner, though neither gold medalist has been ruled out completely.
Griffith-Joyner died in 1998.
"The commercial leads me to believe that, during whatever sport she plays, she uses running to some degree," said Chicago resident Peter Benzio, adding that because the shoe company doesn't typically hire actors to play star athletes in their advertisements, the female sports figure is probably a real person who is well-known among her peers. "But at no point does she hold a ball like Amar'e Stoudemire and Justin Tuck, so all ball-related sports are out. Then again, she also never high-jumps or hurdles. Maybe she is some famous female coach I'm not familiar with."
"I wonder if all the other guys in the commercial knew who she was when they showed up on set," Benzio added. "I bet they didn't, but pretended like they did."
At press time, viewers would still not rule out the possibility that the athlete is a female basketball star like Lisa Leslie, Rebecca Lobo, or Reggie Miller's sister; that one famous volleyball player from the 1990s who was oddly popular; Babe Didrikson; the young female Asian golfer; the soccer player who took off her shirt after she scored the goal; the soccer player who never took off her shirt who is married to Nomar Garciaparra; Billie Jean King; the other openly gay tennis player; the former Connecticut point guard who plays in the WNBA now, right?; Nadia Comaneci; or Hilary Swank.
Sources added that they know who Venus and Serena Williams are, and the female athlete in the commercial is not either of them.
"My daughter is a high school sophomore and loves sports, so I thought she would know who that woman was, because they are clearly using her to appeal to the young female demographic," 42-year-old Gail Summers told reporters. "But she didn't. They probably just should have used what's-her-face from the Olympics, the one who got in trouble for steroids and went to jail."
When asked to identify the female athlete, representatives from Nike refused to comment.