Alysia Montaño Calls on Sports Industry Leaders to Improve Treatment of Pregnant Athletes

Alysia Montaño is calling out the entire sports industry in the hopes of spurring change for all female athletes.

The Olympic runner and three-time United States national champion made headlines over the weekend when she put on blast Nike’s  “Dream Crazier” slogan, describing in both an article and video in the The New York Times the alleged disconnect between the athletic giant’s empowering ads and the reality of its maternity leave policy for sponsored athletes.

In a Wednesday interview with “CBS This Morning,” Montaño explained her decision to bring to light her former sponsor’s decision to reduce payments to female athletes if they were unable to compete for reasons including pregnancy.

“Let’s just be clear here: This is not a Nike hit ad. This is an ad that is bringing to light our issues that we’re facing in the sports industry that is ultimately discriminating against female athletes across the board,” she said. “Nike is the industry leader … Other companies who are looking to compete against Nike are [basing] their standards off of our industry leaders.”

The 33-year-old runner, who famously competed at the 2014 Olympics while eight months pregnant with her first child, also addressed Nike’s response to the criticism, calling it “so verbose that it evades the problem.”

In a statement, the Beaverton, Ore.-based company wrote, “As is common practice in our industry, our agreements do include performance-based payment reductions. Historically, a few female athletes had performance-based reductions applied. We recognized that there was inconsistency in our approach across different sports, and in 2018, we standardized our approach across all sports so that no female athlete is penalized financially for pregnancy.”

During the CBS interview, Montaño contested, “Your standard approach is standard for men. I wanna see — not just Nike — the sports industry implement practices in place that specifically protect female athletes, and that includes clauses for maternity and pregnancy that explicitly say you are protecting this class … Hire some women that are going to help you in these contracts. Get the female voice in there.”

Montaño currently doesn’t have a sponsor, and although she acknowledged wanting to eventually sign a contract with one, she said, “I’d love to move into a space where I can help elevate voices of people who are ultimately like myself.”

Watch FN’s interview with Nike trainer Joe Holder.

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