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  • Allyson Felix, a runner sponsored by Nike, during a 2017 London competition.

    Allyson Felix, a runner sponsored by Nike, during a 2017 London competition. | Photo: Reuters

Published 25 May 2019

After several star women runners contracted by Nike come out that they are penalized for become pregnant, Nike backtracks to include leave-time terms in contracts.

The massive sports company Nike has agreed to not penalize women athletes they have contracts with for having a baby.


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Under pressure from criticisms from the women athletes, who include runners such as Alysia Montaño, Kara Goucher, Phoebe Wright and Allyson Felix, Nike said in a statement Friday to The New York Times that it would waive performance-pay reductions for 12 months for athletes “who decide to have a baby.” This comment goes further than Nike’s May 17 public statement saying that in the future the company would “include written terms” for pregnancies into its contracts with female athletes.

The company came under fire earlier this month when the NYT began publishing opinion videos of current and former Nike-sponsored runners such as Alysia Montaño, Kara Goucher, Phoebe Wright and Allyson Felix who all said they had to decide between having children or having their pay reduced for taking time to have kids.

“We’ve recognized Nike, Inc., can do more, and there is an important opportunity for the sports industry collectively to evolve to better support female athletes,” Nike spokeswoman, Sandra Carreon-John, said to the NYT in an email May 24.

These sought-after Nike contracts makeup most of an athlete’s income. However, there are strings attached and if an athlete doesn’t meet a minimum of events or performance thresholds, for whatever reason, including pregnancy, they could be docked pay.

In one video, Montaño, a middle-distance runner who ran in the 2014 U.S.A. Track and Field championships eight months pregnant, contrasted Nike’s marketing rhetoric with its treatment of pregnant athletes.

“If we want to be an athlete and a mother, well that’s just crazy,” Montaño said in the video, referring to Nike’s “Dream Crazier” commercial.

The NYT videos and a report even caught the attention of United States Congress members Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) who wrote to Nike asking for an explanation as to why the billion dollar company stopped paying some athletes during their pregnancies.

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“We are deeply concerned by recent reports that Nike has reduced sponsorship payments, or ceased payment entirely, for female athletes during their pregnancy and postpartum recovery,” the legislators wrote in a letter to Nike’s chief executive, Mark Parker, obtained by The Washington Post, wrote the WP earlier this week.

In a memo addressed to all Nike employees Friday, Amy Montagne, the company's general manager for global properties, said Nike realized the performance thresholds weighed heavier on female athletes who became pregnant than males and that the company had begun creating a yet-to-be-released official maternity policy.

“This has been a humbling event,” Montagne wrote of the criticism.

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