The Connecticut Sun highlight Mohegan Tribe culture in new WNBA Nike uniforms

Photo of Maggie Vanoni

Just a week away from the 2021 WNBA Draft, the Connecticut Sun, along with the rest of the league’s teams, debuted the new Nike WNBA uniform collection Thursday morning. Each team received three new uniform editions -— the Nike Heroine Edition, the Nike Explorer Edition, and the Nike Rebel Edition — specifically designed to represent each team and city.

The Sun’s new uniforms not only feature the team’s new logo but are centered around representing the values and culture of the Mohegan Tribe — the first Native American tribe to own a professional sports team.

“We were very pleased with the entire uniform design process,” Kathy Regan-Pyne, Recording Secretary of the Mohegan Tribal Council, said in a release Thursday. “Nike demonstrated their commitment to getting it right, they consulted and worked with us as a team. Members of the Tribal Council and Council of Elders, our Chief and our Medicine Woman were all involved in some fashion. It was a collaborative effort, we all absolutely love the end result.”

Connecticut’s Nike Heroine Edition jersey, which symbolizes the rising sun, is white with orange-colored lettering on the front displaying the player’s number and the “Sun” in the team’s traditional font. It’s orange and blue trim represents the Mohegan Tribe symbol with 13 dots around the center to symbolize the 13 moons of the lunar year.

The Sun’s Nike Explorer Edition was inspired by the transition from the sun to the moon and includes white lettering on the front with the word “Connecticut” and the player’s number. The trim is similar to that of the Heroine Edition except the neckline is outlined in white.

Lastly, Connecticut’s Rebel Edition jersey introduces a new look to the team in royal blue and black with the word “Keesuk” in white across the chest which means Sun in the Mohegan language. The neckline is lined with mini white canoes the tribe used for travel along the Massapequataug River, while the arm sleeves are lined with the symbol of the Mohegan Trail of Life. The uniform was largely inspired by Gladys Tantaquidgeon, the Mohegan’s Medicine Woman, who was also a anthropologist, an author, a tribal council member and elder with the Mohegan Tribe.

“Gladys Tantaquidgeon embodied the spirit of the Mohegan people unlike anyone else,” Beth Regan “Morning Deer”, Vice Chairwoman of the Mohegan Tribal Council of Elders, said in a release Thursday. “She was dedicated to serving and elevating her people. Along with her father and brother, she founded the Tantaquidgeon Museum, the oldest Indian owned and operated museum in the country. She was a teacher, Medicine woman, Tribal Councilor and Nonner (Elder woman of respect).

“An advocate for social justice, Gladys fought for her Mohegan people by supporting traditional Mohegan religion, preserving our homelands and mother earth, saving traditional ceremonies and passing on our stories. She promoted social justice for all people of color, fighting for Civil Rights in addition to advocating for and working with imprisoned women, offering hope and courage to those with little. She is an inspiration to me to always walk the life trails with Mohegan good medicine in my heart and spirit.”

For the first time in Sun history, the team’s secondary logo will be on the belt-buckle of all the jersey’s matching shorts. Additionally, the new primary logo is displayed on the side of the shorts as well.

In January, the team unveiled the new primary logo — an updated version of the franchise’s former secondary logo. The new logo has been updated with the team’s official colors and has removed the “SUN” lettering with the outline of a basketball in the lower half.

“We’ve been wanting to launch something that was new and fresh and that just kinda represented who we are as a franchise and what we intend to move forward toward,” said Sun Marketing Coordinator Robyn Brown. “In the last couple of years, you’ve seen the Sun just absolutely emerge on the court and then in this past season, the way we’ve been able to elevate our voice and amplify the voices of our players and the community off the court, it felt like a time that was synonymous to have our brand launch a new look and feel to rise with the way that our franchise is at the moment.”

Brown said the new logo introduces the Sun’s tradition to a new generation of fans and helps showcase the franchise’s growth over the past few years, especially following the 2020 bubbled WNBA season and the attention it brought to social justice.

“The new logo represents who we, the Connecticut Sun, are,” wrote second-year guard Natisha Hiedeman in an email. “To me, these changes represent progression and forward-moving thinking, which is who we at the Connecticut Sun are.

“In the future I see the Connecticut Sun brand expanding across the league and informing fans the true meaning behind our brand and our ties to the Mohegan Tribe. I see our brand raising a lot of questions because of the unique designs, which will then intrigue fans to dig deep into our roots and our history, where we started. Personally, having Native American family members means that much more being able to be apart of the Mohegan Tribe and play for the Connecticut Sun.”

The 2021 WNBA Draft will take place virtually on April 15 at 7 p.m. Connecticut’s new Nike Explorer and Rebel jerseys will be available for fans to purchase starting April 14.

maggie.vanoni@hearstmediact.com