Nike announced that it is adding language to future contracts for female athletes that would protest their pay during pregnancy.
The move comes following backlash and criticism that the brand received last week as it came to light that compensation was being stopped when female athletes became pregnant while under endorsement deals. The pay freeze would continue until some time after giving birth.
Nike maintained that it had updated its policy last year and the new contracts will not allow the company to reduce pay of the athletes on the said criteria.
“Moving forward, our contracts for female athletes will include written terms that reinforce our policy. We recognise we can do more and that there is an important opportunity for the sports industry to evolve to support female athletes,” a spokesman said. In addition, the company indicated that they will “provide appropriate assurances for existing contracts to reinforce our policy.”
Olympic runner Alysia Montaño wrote in a New York Times op-ed published that when she spoke to representatives at Nike about her intent to start a family while still competing, the company responded, “We’ll just pause your contract and stop paying you.” Montaño, a seven-time USA Champion, has famously competed while pregnant.
Other runners who have worked with Nike faced similar situations.
In response to questions about the contracts, Nike has revealed that they do indeed adjust compensation for what they call performance-based payment reductions. While these reductions are framed broadly, Nike did note that the provisions did not specifically exclude pregnancy or childbirth.
“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 recognised that there was inconsistency in our approach across different sports and in 2018 we standardised our approach across all sports so that no female athlete is penalised financially for pregnancy,” a Nike spokesperson wrote in a statement.
The US is the only developed country without a national paid parental leave program.