Nike to add pregnancy protection for female athletes

Nike is adding contractual protection for female athletes who get pregnant after facing negative publicity for not doing so in the past.

On Sunday, The New York Times ran an opinion piece from Lindsay Crouse and video by 33-year-old distance runner Alysia Montaño that pointed out the lack of fairness and support from sponsors towards female athletes who get pregnant. Montaño says when she told Nike she was pregnant, they told her they were going to pause her contract. Crouse pointed out the hypocrisy from Nike, which has created advertising campaigns in which they claim to support and empower female athletes, encouraging them to dream big.

Nike apparently took note of the criticism and has enacted a change.

The Wall Street Journal’s Khadeeja Safdar reported on Friday that Nike has now added language to their contracts that will protect female athletes’ pay during pregnancy.

“We recognize we can do more and that there is an important opportunity for the sports industry to evolve to support female athletes,” the company said.

Nike says they adopted the policy last year but just started writing them into their contracts. Their previous contracts allowed them to pause contracts or reduce pay “for any reason.”

Previously, athletes were not able to speak about these issues due to non-disclosure agreements or fears of retribution. Nike goes to great distances to protect the brand and its athletes for fear of negative publicity, so their quick action and response is not surprising.