In recent times, Nike has differentiated itself from other prominent sporting-goods brands with its inspiration advertisements centered around diversity, overcoming adversity, and gender equality.
A recent opinion piece in The New York Times, however, revealed the great lengths the company still has to go if it truly wishes to treat women fairly.
The piece highlighted the story of U.S. Olympic runner Alysia Montano, who discovered how few protections are afforded to female athletes who become pregnant.
When champion and Olympic runner @AlysiaMontano decided to have a baby, she found that her sponsors had no policies… https://t.co/cDDwD4E4FQ— New York Times Opinion (@New York Times Opinion) 1557662797.0
In Opinion Lindsay Crouse writes, "When Alysia Montaño ran in the 2013 United States Championships while 8 months… https://t.co/6Q9ZHju6qY— The New York Times (@The New York Times) 1557687611.0
Though many thought Montano running races while pregnant was inspiring, the truth is that she had to keep running if she wanted to receive any sort of paycheck.
“Maybe being a mother and a champion was a crazy dream, but it didn’t have to be...” #DreamMaternity Just Do it. •… https://t.co/Q6Ujpqom5d— Alysia Montaño (@Alysia Montaño) 1557686377.0
Nike offered a statement in defense of their policy:
Nike responds to New York Times article about track stars who say their contracts were reduced with the company whe… https://t.co/56ZepXwVJC— Darren Rovell (@Darren Rovell) 1557766404.0
Nike's explanation didn't sit well with many, however:
This is Olympian @karagoucher. She was forced to choose between being with her son, who was dangerously ill, or pre… https://t.co/Pnm6adv6Fh— New York Times Opinion (@New York Times Opinion) 1557689777.0
"More than a dozen track athletes, agents and others familiar with the business describe a multi-billion-dollar ind… https://t.co/TsMdVD7uon— Jennifer Taylor (@Jennifer Taylor) 1557746323.0
This is the same statement @Nike provided @nytopinion, and we included it in our piece. It overlooks the fact that… https://t.co/rkr9vcCrpi— Lindsay Crouse (@Lindsay Crouse) 1557767806.0
Being pregnant shouldn't be something women feel they have to hide or avoid if it's what they want.
“Getting pregnant is the kiss of death for a female athlete,” said Phoebe Wright, who was a runner sponsored by Nik… https://t.co/IIQqbFK3fE— Sarah Couture (@Sarah Couture) 1557767710.0
Olympic runner @AlysiaMontano says there's one way to help women athletes achieve their dreams: Stop treating pregn… https://t.co/ElNhfhGavj— New York Times Opinion (@New York Times Opinion) 1557685416.0
The unfairness of these policies is even more glaring considering the image Nike presents of itself: a champion of athletes of all kinds, men and women alike.
Many companies, including @Nike, claim to elevate female athletes. A commercial released in February received wides… https://t.co/jSgRki35SD— New York Times Opinion (@New York Times Opinion) 1557662960.0
The four Nike executives who negotiate contracts for track and field athletes are all men. https://t.co/hM6rg9ovRJ https://t.co/80Q7GriAuQ— New York Times Opinion (@New York Times Opinion) 1557663053.0
Most people who spoke to The Times requested anonymity because they feared retribution, or had signed nondisclosure… https://t.co/Diw6xFLVCe— New York Times Opinion (@New York Times Opinion) 1557663183.0
According to a 2019 Nike track and field contract shared with The Times, Nike can still reduce an athlete’s pay “fo… https://t.co/wQsoCJLKZh— New York Times Opinion (@New York Times Opinion) 1557663490.0
Twitter users were outraged and heartbroken at how Nike has treated many of its female athletes:
This protest by @AlysiaMontano against the discrimination she faced as a pregnant athlete brought me to tears for (… https://t.co/4exWbTL6Vy— Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, Ph.D. (@Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, Ph.D.) 1557759649.0
The 2nd is that in light of #CasterSemenya exclusion from competition for being too masculine, Montaño being discri… https://t.co/d799aQDChp— Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, Ph.D. (@Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, Ph.D.) 1557759929.0
3rd is YES Nike's role is esp enraging bc co's image SO MUCH abt iconoclasm + much of that marketing specifically t… https://t.co/uzLd8LspoP— Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, Ph.D. (@Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, Ph.D.) 1557760283.0
Advertisements are just that. Actions must back them up or they mean nothing.
Important reminder that despite the message these are advertisements. Unless actions back up the words, they are… https://t.co/17FAtIGuaI— Steve Magness (@Steve Magness) 1557679167.0
"On Mother’s Day this year, Nike released a video promoting gender equality. But that’s just advertising." https://t.co/QxgSEn3wA6— Amanda Hess (@Amanda Hess) 1557760949.0
Several Twitter users debated whether pay cuts due to pregnancy were fair.
@lindsaycrouse Here’s the question: how is pay reduced for a male track athlete sponsored by Nike if they don’t compete for six months?— Darren Rovell (@Darren Rovell) 1557767865.0
@darrenrovell That's up to Nike. Given that pregnancy alone is 9 months, these reduction clauses mean that no woman… https://t.co/0uHPEeP9mk— Lindsay Crouse (@Lindsay Crouse) 1557768062.0
@darrenrovell @lindsaycrouse I don’t think anyone is accusing Nike of not reducing male track athletes who don’t co… https://t.co/XcBGSI5HwE— Victoria, CPA (@Victoria, CPA) 1557768016.0
@darrenrovell @lindsaycrouse It’s the fact that women who want to succeed and are told to LEAN IN but are mostly ex… https://t.co/0HzdAMK8K5— Victoria, CPA (@Victoria, CPA) 1557768168.0
Most people seemed to agree that female athletes deserved to have guaranteed policies surrounding pregnancy written into their contract.
@lindsaycrouse @nytopinion @Nike it's worth asking if nike's claim of "standardizing our approach" is a contractual… https://t.co/WXq1PHDpWw— Adam B. Ellick (@Adam B. Ellick) 1557769003.0
I am just now catching up on this excellent @nytimes piece on @Nike @ASICSamerica & other apparel companies not sup… https://t.co/x0DrfOddEo— Lindsay Schnell (@Lindsay Schnell) 1557767229.0
The insane dream real people want more than anything? Paid maternity leave.
“Companies like @Nike tell us to dream crazy. How about you stop treating our pregnancies like injuries? They tell… https://t.co/XPwIctWLGV— TIME'S UP (@TIME'S UP) 1557765846.0
Runners don't get paid by a league. Instead, their income, and health insurance, come from sponsorship. But many… https://t.co/MmNEcahl3G— Talya Minsberg (@Talya Minsberg) 1557760930.0
I remember watching Alysia Montaño race while pregnant and thought it was so admirable. I never knew it was because… https://t.co/aEHLWM3mZN— Leah Vann (@Leah Vann) 1557672482.0
Twitter users all lined up behind Nike's female athletes to show their support.
Careers are getting longer and longer. It’s time all sponsors support women athletes throughout ALL aspects of thei… https://t.co/c2XXkbaXpP— Kara Goucher (@Kara Goucher) 1557667417.0
At @Nike, it looks like it's win and get paid, or get pregnant and lose a paycheck. Either-or proposition that rais… https://t.co/CcDw1TPeaa— Martha Mueller Neff (@Martha Mueller Neff) 1557769654.0
Women athletes deserve guaranteed protections written into their contracts!
Olympic runner @AlysiaMontano had accomplished all her dreams but one: being a mom. When she finally went for it, s… https://t.co/d3osLYI9wF— New York Times Opinion (@New York Times Opinion) 1557695460.0