After pressure from Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix, Nike recently announced a change to its maternity policy that will provide financial protections for pregnant athletes and new mothers sponsored by the company. The announcement comes just a month after Felix ended her seven-year relationship with Nike to sign with Athleta — the first athlete to be sponsored by the women's athletic wear company.
In a letter to Nike-sponsored athletes dated August 12, 2019, Nike’s executive vice president of global sports marketing John Slusher explained the new change to athlete contracts. The amended language now reads:
"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."
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? pic.twitter.com/fF9ZV0DkCJ— Allyson Felix (@allysonfelix) August 16, 2019
Following the December 2018 birth of her daughter, Camryn, Felix published an op-ed in the The New York Times about her contract dispute with Nike over performance reductions imposed on her because of her pregnancy—reductions that resulted in 70 percent less pay. Felix’s op-ed came on the heels of a similar NYT op-ed published in May 2019 by fellow Olympic runners and former Nike-sponsored athletes Alysia Montaño and Kara Goucher.
Already a World Champion in her sport, Felix has now become a world champion for women by fearlessly using the power of her voice, and the power of her purse, to influence unjust corporate policies—hopefully sparking a trend among many other major brands.