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SIA Collective's Devlin Carter details meeting with Kyrie Irving’s team

SIA Collective's Devlin Carter details meeting with Kyrie Irving’s team

Since Nike made the decision to end its relationship with Kyrie Irving and discontinue his signature shoe after he shared the documentary "Hebrews To Negroes," many brands have reportedly reached out to his camp to attempt to lure him into joining them — Adidas, New Balance and PUMA to name a few. 

During a postgame conference while discussing being a shoe company free agent, the lone company Irving has publicly acknowledged as a possibility was SIA Collective. In addition, he explained that he is not in a rush and wants to take his time to find the right place so he doesn’t duplicate a similar situation as the one he had with Nike, who he referred to as “that other brand.” 

“Number one, I’m in no rush to make any business decisions right now…. I just want to take my time," Irving said on Dec. 28 after the Brooklyn Nets' win over the Atlanta Hawks. "In terms of SIA Collective — great brand, great brothers, great operation team behind the scenes. But again, I'm looking for a home where we can build a huge marketplace and I can have some ownership, and that takes time to build. So I’m willing to stay patient, but work with people that are willing to work with me.

“SIA Collective has been a great brand to converse with, but I don’t want to settle with one. I think I just want to keep my options open, look for ownership and enjoy the free agency for a little bit. It’s been a long time coming, and then, I think there are a lot of details that are going to come out in the future about what was actually going on. And I think once my platform is created, when I can do that, then we'll share that. But shout out to SIA Collective and everybody that's been recruiting me during the process. I’m appreciative. But I’m definitely not going to go back into a similar contract that I was in — or any type of situation or circumstance that I was in or similar to what I was at — with that other brand.”

Since then, many have been asking: Who is SIA Collective, and what are they about? 

On the latest episode of the The Rematch, I had the opportunity to sit down with the founder of SIA Collective, Devlin Carter, who founded the company in 2019. SIA Collective, which stands for Somewhere in America, is an independent, Black-owned shoe and apparel company.

Almost immediately after Nike dropped the Nets star, Carter took to social media to make a public plea to Kyrie to sign with SIA Collective instead of Adidas or PUMA or New Balance or any of the other companies that have reached out following the Nike divorce. The main theme of his pitch is that he is open to offering Irving the very ownership that he expressed is his desire. In Carter's words: "When you have that nobody can drop you because they don’t agree with something you do or say.” 

During our interview, Carter detailed his meeting with Kyrie’s entire team, and expressed why he feels SIA Collective would be the perfect fit for Irving.

Etan Thomas: So, you made the video initially after Nike decided to essentially drop Kyrie Irving making the plea to him to consider joining SIA Collective, and the response from the video was that a lot of people in the community started tagging Kyrie in your video to try to connect you with Kyrie, so walk us through what happened after that point.

Devlin Carter: :Sure. So after I made the video, I got a DM of Kyrie’s agent Shetellia Riley Irving saying, 'Hey, send me an e-mail at your earliest convenience.' So I sent the e-mail and they responded asking when I was available for a Zoom call. I responded, 'Whenever you guys are, I’m open. Whatever y’all want (laughing). We can do it right now if you want.'

"So we had it scheduled for Friday — not this Friday that just passed, but the prior Friday. So we had that set up, and in between that meeting, I also sent them a shoe that we’ve been working on called the EVO Bounce, which is a performance basketball shoe. So I sent them some images of it. I had my photo shop guy mock it up in a Brooklyn Nets design and put a No. 11 on it. And (Shetellia) hit me right back and asked, 'When could you get us this shoe?' So I explained to them that, right now, we were in the sole process. So we’re making the sole and adding the technology to it, but I said, 'As soon as we’re done, I’ll send you as many samples as you need.'"

Etan: So they had a quick response?

Carter: "Yes, and I can tell by how quickly they responded that they liked the design of the shoe. That’s one thing that I don’t have any issues or concerns about is my ability to design a dope looking basketball shoe for Kyrie. So then, from there, we had the meeting on the Zoom call, and it’s me, his agent Shetellia Riley Irving, Kyrie’s dad (Drederick) and another gentleman who is Kyrie’s brand manager. So we’re all on the Zoom and Shetellia is quarterbacking the call. And she tells the gentlemen to tell me about themselves, so basically, they’re pitching me. And I’m thinking, 'Wow, I think I should be pitching myself to y’all.'"

Etan: Right, right, but they’re telling you about who they are.

Carter: "Yeah. So Kyrie’s dad — super cool, super down to earth. He’s telling me how he worked in finance and is from the Bronx. And the brand manager told me how he started with Kyrie and (how) he used to work with Nike, but left Nike to work solely with Kyrie, and how he helps his sister (Asia) with her branding and whatnot. And Shetellia tells me how she worked at BET and launching Power 105.1 (in New York). And then, they asked me how I started, my whole background in fashion design. Then, they started pitching questions."

Etan: What were some of their questions?

Carter: "One of their questions was how long have I been doing this. They asked about my company and our sales, and I told them that I started in 2019 and we’ve done over $40 million in sales really without any advertisement at all. I feel like spending money on advertisement doesn’t really reach your core, and she liked that concept as well. 

"They also asked me about technology, if I had any patents on technology. And I said, 'Right now, we actually do have a new foam that we’re developing and it’s just about done, so we’ll be putting a patent on that.' But then, I was just honest with them and said, 'Listen, no matter what technology I design and I patent, (China companies) are going to steal it if they want to steal it; they steal Nike’s stuff all the time. That’s just the way it works. But I told (Irving's team) one thing you will not have to worry about is technology, and whatever he wants his shoe to feel like and whatever he wants in there, we can do it. 

"Here’s the thing — these avenues and all of this stuff have never been open to us. Because an athlete has always been just an endorser. So Nike’s not going to take you to their factories and say, “Yeah, this is where we get our air cushion and 'This is this and this is that, this is such and such who runs the factory and you can e-mail him at any time with any adjustments you want to make.' They’re not going to want to give you that level of say in your signature shoe. They’re going to keep that gate closed to you."

Etan: Right, and that was actually a thing because Kyrie reportedly wanted a say in the design of his shoe at Nike.

Carter: "Right, and I told them, 'I can open that gate for you.' My whole pitch with them at the end of the day was... I said, 'Listen, I’m not doing this for the money. I’m set for life. I own real estate, I’m good, my kids are good. I’m not doing it for that. I’m doing this for the message that it sends. This is transcending if we could make this happen.' And who better to do this than a player like Kyrie? Because at the end of the day, Kobe [Bryant] wanted to do something like this. He wanted to start Mamba Sports; he did not want to be signed with Nike forever because he opened his eyes and saw that there was a better way to do this — ownership vs. being an employee. 

Etan: Interesting. I didn’t know that.

Carter: "Yeah, and it’s not that only Nike can do this stuff. Look at D-Wade (Dwyane Wade) with Li-Ning; their shoes are outperforming Nike’s shoes. Nike does not possess a monopoly on superior technology or anything. Technology is simply monetary, meaning anybody can get the technology if they have the money. The shoe just needs to be a good foam, you need to have a good shank plate and a good lockdown. That’s really all a basketball shoe really needs, but we can take it to that next level and add the extra cushion and add the extra foam and add the custom orthotics. We have the capability to do all of that. But again, because we’ve never been privy to this information, to us, it seems so foreign."

Etan: I posted on social media that Adidas and PUMA and New Balance have reached out to Kyrie for potential sponsorship deals, and I posted it alongside an article I wrote for Basketball News called, "Nike Employs ADL tactics as it officially drops Kyrie Irving." I tagged you in it, and I saw in the comments section that a lot of other people were tagging you in as well. You responded in the comment section:

If you just want an endorsement deal…..then sign with whoever will pay you the most, but as soon as you say something they don’t agree with, it’s goodbye. But if you really wanna make a change and create a movement ….ownership is the only way.

Can you expound on that?

Carter: "Basically, that’s saying: Once you take that check, you’re just an employee. There’s no power in taking that check. These are the times where you take a chance. I’ll explain that in my own story.

"I was in the military. I had already done 11 years. Most people who serve in the military, once you pass 10 years, you don’t get out of the military because you only need two more transfers, then you get your retirement. But in my 11th year in the military, I was doing the custom shoes. I’m going to the post office with 10 boxes of shoes that I customized for people, making... say $4,000 off of those custom shoes that I did. I’m in the line and I’m looking at the mail clerk. I’m looking dead at him and he looks miserable, and I asked myself... there’s no way that when he was a kid, he told his mom, 'I’m going to grow up and I’m going to sell stamps for a living.'

"No, that’s just what life brings you, curveballs. You do what you gotta do to make ends meet, and much respect to everyone who is in a position where they have to do that. I didn’t want to be someone who said to my kids, 'You can chase your dreams, you can be whatever you want, but I didn’t do it. I didn’t chase those dreams, I stayed at a job that I really don’t want to do, but it pays the bills, I’m comfortable, so I’m going to stay here.' I didn’t choose that. I started SIA Collective. I have the freedom I have always wanted, and I have never struggled. In fact, I am making more money than I have ever made in my life.

"Now, relating this to Kyrie — you’re already set for life. What’s another $11 million a year — which is what Nike paid him last year — going to really do for you when you can easily make that, and much more, as an owner of your own shoe and not be muzzled? Ownership vs. being just a worker. Without ownership, if he goes to Adidas, New Balance, PUMA or whoever, it will just be the same as his Nike experience. If you say or do something they don’t like, they’ll drop you.

"We should encourage looking outside for answers, that’s all Kyrie was doing. The seeking of knowledge should never be punishment, but In order to really be free, ownership is the only way, and Kyrie can have that with SIA Collective."

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