Olympic Runner Alysia Montaño Calls Out Nike For Not Supporting Its Pregnant Athletes Amid Gender Equality Messages
It’s no secret Nike is all about equality and breaking the ceiling. The popular sports company even released an advertisement that promoted gender equality on Mother’s Day.
But now, it’s been called out by one of its most famous spokespeople, Olympian Alysia Montaño, for not truly standing behind its positive messages. While Montaño, who has been dubbed one of the top three runners in the world, was saluted when she ran pregnant for the U.S. Championships in 2014, she said she didn’t get the same level of support from Nike behind closed doors. She claimed in a video that she had to beg the brand to still pay her.
“If we want to be an athlete and a mother, that’s just crazy.”
She went on to quote Nike’s infamous statement as the company backed Colin Kaepernick, who was reportedly blacklisted from the NFL after protesting against police brutality against African-American men.
“Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
See that commercial below.
Montaño, who is a mom to two children, repeated the phrase and said the sacrifice is real; too real at times.
“Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything. Like maybe your contract, your pay… even if you have to watch them roll out an ad campaign praising women like you and preaching the importance of taking a stand. Pro sports and motherhood? That’s just crazy.”
She went on to say that while the sports industry encourages men to live their career to their fullest, women don’t get the same support when they become pregnant. In fact, she added,
“It pushes women out at their prime…”
When she told Nike she was pregnant, they allegedly said,
“Simple. We’ll just pause your contract and stop paying you.”
She said Nike isn’t the only one.
“The U.S. Olympic Committee strips our health insurance if we do not stay at the top of our game during our pregnancy. This just makes our comeback even harder.”
She ended up leaving Nike and going to another shoe company, ASICS. But that company also allegedly threatened to stop payment upon her return to running. That’s when she took action.
“I was pissed. I was very upset by the fact that there was not a policy in place to protect me. I fought tooth and nail to make sure that this would not happen to other women. I started a maternity leave legislation so we would not lose our health insurance. I taped my abs together because they were torn apart. I wore a brace as I’d go and I’d lift back within my timeframe that they were expecting of me. They weren’t sure if I was gonna be able to return after my pregnancy. I proved them wrong.”
She went on to win a national championships six months and ten months after giving birth. While still nursing her daughter, she pumped during the Beijing games to ship milk to her child who was in the U.S.
“I wanted to turn the stereotypes about pregnancy upside down.”
She revealed that there are confidentiality clauses that often stop women from speaking up.
“How about when you tell my daughter that she can do anything, you back it up?”
Check out her full video below.
Nike released the following statement in response,
“Nike is proud to sponsor thousands of female athletes. As is common practice in our industry, our agreements do include performance-based payment reductions. 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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