Shoppers at an outlet mall exit a Nike store on May 21, 2019 in Los Angeles. (AFP/Frederic J. Brown)
Nike Inc., responding to criticism that the brand treated its female athletes unfairly during pregnancy, vowed to better promote its policies and change a rule that resulted in women losing pay when they had children.
The company is eliminating a performance requirement for “12 months for those athletes who decide to have a baby,” Nike Vice President Amy Montagne said in a memo to staff. “Moving forward, we are also committed to including written terms reinforcing this policy in all our contracts with female athletes.”
Nike’s advertising stresses female empowerment, but athletes have said they were punished for having children. “Getting pregnant is the kiss of death for a female athlete,” Phoebe Wright, a runner sponsored by Nike until 2016, said in a New York Times opinion piece. “There’s no way I’d tell Nike if I were pregnant.”
Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix shared her story this week, saying Nike wanted to pay her 70% less after her pregnancy.
The 12-month rule would mean athletes don’t have to maintain a certain performance level to maintain pay.
“We were saddened to hear her experience, but support and admire her, as we always have, for speaking up,” Montagne said in the memo. “This has been a humbling moment.”
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