In an op-ed published by The New York Times, six-time Olympic gold medal winner Allyson Felix gets candid about life as a mom and athlete. The 33-year-old track and field sprinter revealed that after choosing to start a family, Nike offered to pay her 70 percent less during negotiations for a new contract.
Felix joins the chorus of women athletes coming forward about the roadblocks they face during and after pregnancy. Due to non-disclosure agreements, discussion on the topic has been mostly mum. But even with her own contract with Nike at a “standstill,” Felix says she was motivated to come forward because “you can’t change anything with silence.”
The new mom to daughter Camryn, born November 28, 2018, lamented that despite her victories, Nike valued her at far less than what she previously received from the brand. “If that’s what they think I’m worth now, I accept that,” wrote Felix.
“What I’m not willing to accept is the enduring status quo 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. If I, one of Nike’s most widely marketed athletes, couldn’t secure these protections, who could?”
Nike declined to add the protection into Felix’s contract. To date, the two parties have yet to reach an agreement. But the brand has responded to a video and article published last week in The NYT titled “Nike Told Me to Dream Crazy, Until I Wanted a Baby” written by Alysia Montaño, a former Nike teammate of Felix’s.
In a statement the major retail company said, “Last year we standardized our approach across all sports to support our female athletes during pregnancy, but we recognize we can go even further.”
Nike said that it has now adapted written terms in its contracts that clearly outlines and reinforces their commitment to support their athletes’ decision to become a mom.
“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.”
Felix, who admits she signed with Nike in 2010 because she believed its core principles directly aligned with hers, applauds the brand’s decision. The 11-time world champion said, “I look forward to specifics, from Nike and the rest of the industry who has yet to commit to contractually protecting women.”