Nike to End Penalties for Pregnant Female Athletes After Public Backlash

After taking criticism for its treatment of pregnant athletes, Nike announced new measures on Friday to ensure those athletes are not penalized financially.

The Swoosh said it will waive performance-based pay reductions for a 12-month period for those who have a baby. The brand will include language in its contracts going forward to guarantee that this policy is enforced.

The latest conversation surrounding the treatment of expectant female athletes began with a New York Times article published May 12, in which former Nike runners Kara Goucher and Alysia Montaño described their contracts being reduced during pregnancy/postpartum.

Olympian Allyson Felix added her voice to the choir with an emotional op-ed published on May 22 in the Times. In the article, Felix detailed her struggles negotiating a new deal with the Oregon-based brand following her pregnancy in 2018, calling the experience “heartbreaking.”

Two Congresswomen — Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) — sent a letter to the athletic giant on May 17 asking for details on how it handles paying athletes “who are pregnant, breastfeeding or in the postpartum period.”

Following the public backlash, Nike admitted that it had decreased pay for pregnant athletes in the past, adding that it had changed its policies as of 2018. The company on May 17 published a statement on its corporate site saying it would take further steps to reinforce its amended protocol.

“Moving forward, our contracts for female athletes will include written terms that reinforce our policy,” the statement read. “Our mission has always been to support athletes as they strive to be their best. We want to make it clear today that we support women as they decide how to be both great mothers and great athletes. We recognize we can do more and that there is an important opportunity for the sports industry to evolve to support female athletes.”

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