This New York Times op-ed (and video), written and produced by Lindsay Crouse, was published on May 12. It ripped Nike for not guaranteeing female athletes a salary during pregnancy and early maternity despite advertising campaigns that spotlight “women at all stages of their careers, from childhood to motherhood.”
The piece, which prominently features Olympians Alysia Montaño and Kara Goucher, explains that women have had sponsorship payments reduced because of pregnancies and that there is language in current Nike athlete contracts that says the brand can reduce pay “for any reason” if an athlete doesn’t meet a specific performance threshold.
I’m glad to see one of athletics’ dirtiest secrets aired out. Unfortunately, it’s part of a MUCH bigger industry-wide issue—it’s not just a Nike problem or a pregnant female athlete problem. As the article mentions, athletes are not employees of the brands they represent and most don’t receive health insurance or benefits from their sponsors. They’re independent contractors and are often taken advantage of because there aren’t laws in place to protect them. The industry needs to shift the paradigm and Nike, as its biggest brand, has the power to lead the charge. (more…)