News & Opinion | May 20, 2019 12:28 pm

Nike Is Updating Its Pregnancy Policy After Backlash

The company is reinforcing a policy that ensures no athletes face financial penalties for pregnancy

Alysia Montano
Alysia Montaño first brought attention to Nike's treatment of pregnant athletes last week.
Andy Lyons/ Getty

In the wake of last week’s controversy surrounding Nike’s treatment of pregnant athletes, the company is reconsidering its maternity leave policy.

While Nike said it updated its policy last year to reflect a more standardized approach, the company faced backlash after multiple athletes called out the brand for cutting compensation during pregnancy.

In a New York Times op-ed, Olympic runner Alysia Montaño called the brand’s claims to promoting gender equality “just advertising.” Montaño, who has famously competed while pregnant, slammed the industry, claiming Nike “praises women for having families in public — but doesn’t guarantee them a salary during pregnancy and early maternity.”

Other athletes echoed Montaño’s claims, with former Nike-sponsored runner Phoebe Wright calling pregnancy “the kiss of death for a female athlete,” and telling The Times, “There’s no way I’d tell Nike if I were pregnant.”

Nike has since acknowledged that its previous contracts allowed the company to cut athletes’ pay during pregnancy.

“Last year, we standardized our approach across all sports to support our female athletes during pregnancy, but we recognize we can go even further,” the brand said in a statement on Friday. “Moving forward, our contracts for female athletes will include written terms that reinforce our policy.”

Montaño alleged that the brand said they would pause her contract and halt payments completely during her pregnancy.

“As is common practice in our industry, our agreements do include performance-based payment reductions,” Nike said in an earlier statement last week. “Historically, a few female athletes had performance-based reductions applied. We recognized that there was inconsistency in our approach across different sports and in 2018 we standardized our approach across all sports so that no female athlete is penalized financially for pregnancy.”

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