Allyson Felix has changed how we view athlete parenthood
Allyson Felix competes in the Women's 400 Meter heats during the 2019 USATF Outdoor Championships at Drake Stadium on July 25, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Business Archive Health

Nike announces end to pregnancy reduction in contracts

Allyson Felix, track and field, USATF Outdoor Championship
Allyson Felix competes in the Women's 400 meter heats during the 2019 USATF Outdoor Championships at Drake Stadium on July 25, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Nike announced it is ending its policy of reducing pay and benefits if an athlete gets pregnant.

Nike's change of position allowing pregnant athletes to continue to receive pay and health care for 18 months is a victory for female athletes who previously had their pay reduced and lost health care under performance penalties. Other apparel sponsors changed their policies as well, guaranteeing women benefits while pregnant.

Nike has been under fire for months after Alysia Montaño went public in an opinion piece for the New York Times, detailing how the apparel giant cut her paycheck and health insurance while she was pregnant.

In July, Allyson Felix, one of Nike's highest profile athletes, left the brand and signed with Athleta. Felix had said Nike did not do enough to support pregnant athletes.

“As women and athletes, we experience the joys and challenges that come with being both,” Athleta wrote in a letter to Felix when the contract was announced. “It’s why we promise to support you—as an athlete, a mother, an activist—as you continue to break records, break barriers, and break the silence.”

Felix tweeted on Friday "Our voices have power. NIKE has contractually provided maternal protection to the female athletes they sponsor. I’m grateful to NIKE leadership for believing that we are all more than athletes. THANK YOU to the brands who have already made this commitment. Who is next?"

As Victoria Jackson, a former Nike athlete wrote for GlobalSport Matters in May:

"Montaño has channeled her anger into positive change, making the elite sports landscape better for women. Before taking on Nike’s #DreamCrazy, she pushed for maternity leave legislation so the United States Olympic Committee couldn’t revoke a pregnant or postpartum athlete’s health insurance through the Elite Athlete Health Insurance program.

All athletes — but especially women athletes and athletes of color — are supposed to be grateful for the contract, the privilege of getting paid to do what they love. If they ask or suggest or push or request, they’re being difficult and no longer part of the team. Unsurprisingly, Montaño has taken heat for trying to improve the landscape for pro women athlete moms. In sport, too often, critical thinking is interpreted as negative. We have to buy in 100 percent, “believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,” be a team player,#TrustTheProcess."

According to the letter to its athletes and tweeted by ESPN's Emmanuel Acho, the new addendum to the Nike contract states: “If ATHLETE becomes pregnant, NIKE may not apply any performance-related reductions (if any) for a consecutive period of 18 months, beginning eight months prior to ATHLETE’s due date. During such period NIKE may not apply any right of termination (if any) as a result of ATHLETE not competing due to pregnancy.”

The new policy is effective immediately and will protect athletes for an additional six months, allowing more time for the new mom and baby to bond and not forcing the women to begin training immediately.

In a statement to Sports Illustrated, Nike said: "Female athletes and their representatives will begin receiving written confirmation reaffirming Nike's official pregnancy policy for elite athletes.

"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."

Related Articles

Alyson Felix: My own Nike pregnancy story

Podcast: Montaño's outrage over Nike ad pushed changes for pregnant athletes

Nike told me to Dream Crazy until I wanted a baby

Opinion: Stop penalizing female athletes for getting pregnant

USOC seeks pregnant athlete insurance reform