A recent opinion piece by star US athlete Alysia Montaño has drawn attention to a very important aspect of a woman athlete's career — pregnancy and the absence of policies that deal with the needs of pregnant athletes.
The world's remembers 33-year-old Olympian athlete Alysia Montaño who wowed everyone when she ran the 800-meter race at the United States Track and Field Championships in 2014 while eight-months pregnant. She achieved a similar feat once again in 2017 when she completed while five months pregnant.
However, in the opinion piece which appeared in New York Times, Montaño has accused Nike of "penalising" her for getting pregnant and cutting off her sponsorship. Slamming Nike's brand image which projects the brand as a vocal proponent of woman empowerment, especially in sports, Montaño said that Nike asked women to dream big in their ads but did not support woman athletes, the minute they became pregnant, therefore a liability.
Relating the incidents, Montaño said that even though she kept practicing throughout her first pregnancy and also ran the race, Nike offered to "pause the contract" and stop paying her as soon as she informed them.
Not just sponsors, as per US Olympic Committee rules, pregnant women athletes were entitled to lose their health insurance if they did not meet set performance standards, making it harder for these women to make a comeback after childbirth. This could potentially affect the health of women athletes who want to continue running post-partum as most have to instantly dive back in and put in extra effort to get back on top.
She goes on to point out the reality in the way corporations like Nike treat women athletes and the conditions pregnant women athletes have to endure if they want to stay in the game, despite the central themes of brands like Nike's advertising which emphasise dreaming big and believing in things.
The NYT video ends with Montaño telling Nike that it was the women who would have to explain to their daughters the "difference between dreams and advertising".
Following backlash after the NYT piece, Nike responded with a statement, admitting that their contracts do indeed included clauses about "performance-based reductions" in pay and that it was in keeping with common industry practice. It added that in 2018, thepolicies underwent modifications.
Nike responds to New York Times article about track stars who say their contracts were reduced with the company when they were pregnant. pic.twitter.com/kp64D51VWq— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) May 13, 2019
However, Nike contracts acquired by the Time dates 2019 continue to include such discriminatory clauses.