It is no secret that Nike has been pro-woman from the beginning. For over 40 years the sporting giant has been encouraging women to take to the track and field but after an opinion piece was published to The New York Times in May, outrage ensued when Olympian Allyson Felix opened up about her struggles to secure pregnancy protection from Nike.
As one of America and the world’s most publicised runners on the international circuit, the public and running community were appalled to hear that Felix was unable to negotiate maternity protection with her Nike sponsorship deal. Wanting to pay the six-time Olympic gold medal winner 70 percent less, it was a clear illustration of how sport is still, for the most part dominated by men. Before Felix, two fellow athletes broke their nondisclosure agreements to speak with The New York Times. Now in response to the outcry, Nike Executive Vice President of Global Sports Marketing John Slusher issued a letter to the company’s sponsored athletes detailing changes that have been made to their respective contracts.
In an effort to support the changes brought on from pregnancy, according to the BBC, the new contract reads:
“If ATHLETE becomes pregnant, NIKE may not apply any performance-related reductions (if any) for a consecutive period of 18 months, beginning eight months prior to ATHLETE’s due date. During such period NIKE may not apply any right of termination (if any) as a result of ATHLETE not competing due to pregnancy.”
View this post on Instagram
Our voices have power. NIKE has joined in officially and contractually providing maternal protection to the female athletes they sponsor. This means that female athletes will no longer be financially penalized for having a child. I’m grateful to John Slusher and Mark Parker for their leadership and their desire to guide NIKE as a company who believes that we are all more than athletes. And THANK YOU to the brands who have already made this commitment. Who is next?
In a statement made to media, Nike also added, “Female athletes and their representatives will begin receiving written confirmation reaffirming Nike’s official pregnancy policy for elite athletes. In addition to our 2018 policy standardising our approach across all sports to ensure no female athlete is adversely impacted financially for pregnancy, the policy has now been expanded to cover 18 months.”
Since the policy changes, Felix shared a message on Instagram stating that despite the changes she has moved on from Nike and has instead signed a multi-year contract with Athleta, a women’s apparel company owned by Gap.