Allyson Felix is speaking out about her experience as a pregnant Nike-signed athlete — and she says it was “heartbreaking.”
In an emotional op-ed published in The New York Times yesterday, the track-and-field champion explained that she decided to start a family in 2018. With her Nike contract having expired in December 2017, Felix was hoping to negotiate a new deal.
The Olympic champion writes that the brand felt she was worth 70% less than before. While she was willing to accept the pay decrease, Felix said she was not OK with the “enduring status around maternity.”
“I asked Nike to contractually guarantee that I wouldn’t be punished if I didn’t perform at my best in the months surrounding childbirth. I wanted to set a new standard,” she wrote. “If I, one of Nike’s most widely marketed athletes, couldn’t secure these protections, who could? Nike declined. We’ve been at a standstill ever since.”
The latest conversation surrounding the treatment of expectant female athletes began with a Times article published May 12, in which former Nike runners Kara Goucher and Alysia Montaño describe their contracts being reduced during pregnancy/postpartum.
The article also sparked an inquiry by two Congresswomen, Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.). Beutler and Roybal-Allard sent a letter to Nike president and CEO Mark Parker this week asking pointed questions about the brand’s pay fairness policy and contracts with its pregnant athletes.
Following the criticism, the Swoosh announced it would revamp its maternity policy, adding language to contracts of the women it sponsors to ensure no one is financially penalized for pregnancy. Felix commended this change in her op-ed.
“I applaud Nike for seeing that change was necessary, and I look forward to specifics, from Nike and the rest of the industry who has yet to commit to contractually protecting women,” she wrote.
FN has reached out to Nike for comment.
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