Having faced increased scrutiny regarding its treatment of pregnant athletes, Nike is changing its policy to guarantee a pregnant athlete's pay and bonuses cannot be cut over the 18-month period covering eight months before an athlete's due date through 10 months after. Under Nike's previous policy, which had been updated in 2018, according to a spokesman, that period had lasted 12 months.
"Female athletes and their representatives will begin receiving written confirmation reaffirming Nike's official pregnancy policy for elite athletes," a Nike spokesperson wrote in an email. "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."
"I can't tell you the number of women who have reached out, who have encouraged me, who have been through a similar experience, who have been scared to let their employer know that they started a family," Felix said in a phone interview this summer. "I was just blown away with those different stories, the different people coming to me. I think there's definitely a shared experience there, and I think there's power in coming together, power of the collective. I think the more voices that come out, you know, change is happening."
In a form letter intended for athletes and agents dated Aug. 12 that circulated on social media, Nike Executive Vice President of Global Sports Marketing John Slusher said Nike's new policy will be inserted into current contracts.
Nike came under fire this spring after several high-profile athletes denounced how Nike and other apparel companies treated them financially after becoming pregnant. Tennis star Serena Williams said Nike supported her during and after her pregnancy, but multiple track and field athletes described problems.
In a New York Times op-ed in May, decorated sprinter Allyson Felix wrote that contract renewal talks broke down after Nike offered to pay her 70% of her previous salary and refused to guarantee she wouldn't be financially punished for performing below her standard in the months before and after her childbirth. In another Times op-ed, distance runner Kara Goucher said she felt forced to train, owing to financial pressure, rather than caring for her newborn.
Felix, 33, gave birth in November after an emergency C-section, the complications of which threatened both her and daughter, Camryn. She returned to competition this June at the US Championships in Iowa, then announced she had signed a new sponsorship contract with Athleta, which includes partnering for initiatives that empower women.
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