Nike Executive Vice President of Global Sports Marketing John Slusher issued a letter to the company's sponsored athletes this week detailing changes that have been made to their respective contracts in an effort to support them through pregnancy.
Nike has faced criticism for its maternity policies since May, when The New York Times published an op-ed that featured Olympians Alysia Montano and Kara Goucher speaking about their former contracts with the sportswear giant which did not guarantee protection for pregnant athletes and new mothers.
After the initial backlash, Nike announced its plans to waive performance reductions for 12 months for athletes who decide to have a baby.
Allyson Felix, the most decorated female Olympic track and field star, also went public to the Times about her own contract dispute with Nike after becoming a mother in December 2018. Last month, Felix officially moved on from her seven-year relationship with the company and signed a multi-year deal with Athleta, a women's apparel company owned by Gap, that assured her of compensation during maternity. Felix qualified for the 2019 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in the 4x400-meter relay with a sixth-place finish in the 400-meter final at the U.S. Outdoor Championships. Felix also plans on trying to make a fifth and final Olympics next summer.
In response to the public outcry, Slusher's letter detailed a change in language designed to increase financial protection for athletes who become pregnant while under contract.
The new contract reads:"If ATHLETE becomes pregnant, NIKE may not apply any performance-related reductions (if any) for a consecutive period of 18 months, beginning eight months prior to ATHLETE's due date. During such period NIKE may not apply any right of termination (if any) as a result of ATHLETE not competing due to pregnancy."
The letter from Slusher was dated August 12th and first shared on Twitter by Emmanuel Acho.
Nike issued the following statement to Sports Illustrated regarding the letter: "Female athletes and their representatives will begin receiving written confirmation reaffirming Nike’s official pregnancy policy for elite athletes. In addition to our 2018 policy standardizing our approach across all sports to ensure no female athlete is adversely impacted financially for pregnancy, the policy has now been expanded to cover 18 months.”
SI is waiting to hear back from Nike on whether suspensions based on not competing for a certain period of time (usually 120 or 180 days) will still apply.