Nike Increases Protections for Female Athletes After Allyson Felix’s Move to Athleta

After facing criticism in May — and losing a prominent runner — Nike Inc. has once again revised its policies regarding female athletes.

In an email sent Aug. 12 to athletes it sponsors, the Beaverton, Ore.-based brand said it had revised contracts to include more protections for pregnant athletes. The update includes an 18-month period — starting eight months prior to a woman’s due date — wherein performance-related reductions cannot be applied.

“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,” the revised contract reads. “During such period Nike may not apply any right of termination (if any) as a result of athlete not competing due to pregnancy.”

The Swoosh’s contract revision comes following the loss of one of its most high-profile female runners, Allyson Felix. In a May 22 New York Times op-ed, the Olympic champion wrote that her efforts to renegotiate her Nike contract in 2017 stalled after she asked for more protections in case of pregnancy. In July, Felix announced a deal with a new apparel sponsor, Athleta.

Felix’s op-ed came amid a wave of criticism toward Nike’s maternity pay policies. In another Times article published May 12, Kara Goucher and Alysia Montaño, two former Nike runners, recalled that their contracts were reduced during pregnancy/postpartum.

Following the backlash, Nike announced May 24 that it would waive performance-based pay reductions for a 12-month period for those who have a baby. Prior to the criticism, the athletic giant said it had changed its policies in 2018 to prevent financial penalties in case of pregnancy.

The updates to contracts this month marks a further increase in such protections.

“Female athletes and their representatives will begin receiving written confirmation reaffirming Nike’s official pregnancy policy for elite athletes,” Nike wrote in a statement shared with FN. “In addition to our 2018 policy standardizing 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.”

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