Olympic runner Alysia Montaño further rebukes Nike and its policies regarding pregnant women, one day after the company claimed to changing its standards to better support the athletes.
The sports giant admitted to past ‘performance-based payment reductions’ in a statement on Monday, which came in response to releasing a New York Times op-ed criticizing Nike’s treatment towards her while pregnant. But Nike also said policies today would no longer financially penalize a women for being pregnant.
When speaking to CBS Morning News, the 33-year-old track star said she was still not happy with Nike’s response to how they treat women athletes on its payroll.
Controversy: Olympic runner Alysia Montaño, 33, spoke out again against Nike over its maternity policies after she first became pregnant in 2014
Time for change: She thinks a standard should be set for female athletes and how the company responds to pregnancy and maternity
Impacted: Montaño made headlines in 2014 for competing while eight-months pregnant, but she says it took a brutal financial toll because of how the industry treats expectant mothers
‘I want to see not just Nike, the sports industry, implement practices in place that specifically protect female athletes, and that includes clauses for maternity and pregnancy that explicitly say you are protecting this class,’ she said.
This was in response to Nike’s released statement, which read: ‘In 2018 we standardized our approach across all sports so that no female athlete is penalized financially for pregnancy.’
But Montaño felt the statement was just a ‘verbose’ way for the company to ‘evade the problem’.
‘What do you mean? Your standard approach is standard for men,’ she said.
Conversation about Nike’s policies when it came to its female athletes ignited from Montaño’s scathing opinion piece about her inability to keep the money coming in when she was pregnant with her children. This was due, in part, because Nike halted her contract and ability to make advertising money.
‘The greatest disconnect that [Nike is] not backing up what they are preaching,’ Montaño told CBS Morning News.
‘They are making this very grand gesture when they are making these ads that move people,’ she said, referencing the ‘Just Do It’ campaigns that feature inspirational imagery of athletes.
‘But ultimately, behind closed doors,…they’re basically stuffing you down,’ she continued.
Not good: This comes after the sporting giant admitted that its female sponsored athletes, including Montaño (pictured with her family) have had their pay cut back when pregnant
Differing statements: In a statement released on Monday, Nike said ‘no female athlete is penalized financially for pregnancy’. But Montaño thought it evaded the problem
Priority: ‘I want to see not just Nike, the sports industry, implement practices in place that specifically protect female athletes, and that includes clauses for maternity,’ she said
Montaño launched herself into the spotlight in 2014 for running in the US Track and Field Championships in Sacramento, California, while eight months pregnant. She was praised across the nation for shedding light on how athletes can be mothers.
Then three years later, the track athlete did it again by running in 2017 while five months pregnant.
But it took a toll on Montaño.
‘Sports take a heavy toll on the human body, and sponsors accommodate this with time off for injuries. But rarely do they offer enough time off to have a child,’ Montaño wrote in the opinion piece.
Disconnect: Montaño (pictured running in 2017 while five months pregnant) thought the biggest issue was that men negotiate the contracts for track athletes. She believes they do not see mothers as ‘serious athletes’
Although Nike claimed its policies have changed, it is not clear about exactly what id difference about the policy regarding maternity and pregnancy.
A copy of a 2019 sponsored athlete contract with Nike shared with the Times included clause allowing for the reduction of pay ‘for any reason’ if specific performance metrics weren’t met, without explicit exceptions for pregnancy, childbirth, and the time period immediately following that (referred to as ‘maternity’).
Montaño said she believes part of the disconnect has to do with the men running the contract negotiations for female athletes.
‘We’re looking in a space where we have men who still believe women are less capable, and not just in the sporting industry but many industries,’ she said on Tuesday.
‘So ultimately when people, especially men at Nike, when they think about women being athletes and they think about the highest level of athleticism, I certainly think and believe they do not see you as a serious athlete once you decide you’re going to become a mother.’
Nike declined to comment on whether the policy changes were incorporated into contracts, and also didn’t elaborate on which sports or which athletes had been impacted by its policy treating pregnancy worse than injury, but admitted it had been an issue, in general.
‘Nike is proud to sponsor thousands of female athletes. As is common practice in our industry, our agreements do include performance-based payment reductions,’ the statement said.