I’m in Nike’s Ads, But They Won’t Give Me Maternity Protections | NYT Opinion

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The culture around
pregnancy in track and field is silence. Get pregnant and you hide it. It can feel so risky when
your livelihood depends on it. I’m Allyson Felix and I’ve won
nine Olympic track and field medals, and that makes me one
of the most decorated women in track and field history. I’ve done a lot of
promotion for Nike. They’ve used me in a
lot of their stores. And a lot of the campaigns. But I’m also a mother. I don’t think I can just
sit back quietly anymore. I want protection
around maternity. I want that to change. I know that it’s been said,
but I want to see change. I’m in this process right
now. I am under negotiations. I want to be able to
sign a contract that says there is maternity
rights. Just about a week ago, I asked for protection
around maternity and the answer was no. So the negotiations have
been ongoing for a long time. I haven’t been under
contract since December 2017. I was already offered
70% less of what I had been paid before.
I can take less money. But the one point
that I wasn’t willing to budge
around was maternity, and not because I am planning
to have another child. But just because it’s
the right thing to do. And if not for myself,
for people coming after me. Putting really strict
requirements on our returning to competition takes
away from our mothering. It could jeopardize
our health. I was not aware that
I was at a higher risk to have complications
during my birth, but what I have
since learned is that African-American
women are four times more likely
to die in childbirth and twice as more likely
to have complications. And that’s exactly
what happened to me. You never know what type of
birth you’re going to have. When I went in for a routine
appointment at 32 weeks, I never went home. I gave birth to my
daughter two days later and spent the next month in
the hospital between myself and my daughter. And while I am spending
countless hours in the NICU I’m coming home at 1 a.m. trying to figure out how can I get to the gym to put a few
hours in, because I know I have to be ready
to run in six months. Many times I just
felt like, you know, I was in an
impossible situation. If I’ve been told
no, you won’t have any protection
around maternity, then it’s going to be really
hard for someone else. This has been
going on forever. If you talk to any
woman, I guarantee you that they know someone
who has been through this. The sports industry allows
for men to have a full career. And when a woman
decides to have a baby, it pushes women
out at their prime. When the New York
Times piece came out, a lot of people called me
to find out, is this true? It definitely
hit home for runners. It was really difficult for
me to see the “Dream Crazier” campaign. I mean, there are thousands
of other female athletes who represent Nike who don’t
have that same protection. Alysia and Kara
bravely spoke out. And here we are a
week later and it’s said to have changed. This is a great opportunity
for Nike to really spell out what the new agreement is. What protection do women have? What does that look like? Are we going to face
reductions returning from childbirth? Is that going
to be a 12-month period? We need to see what does
that actually look like and what does that
actually mean. The individuals who are
negotiating these contracts are all men. And it might be more difficult
for them to understand what we are going through
and what we have been through and what we need.

100 comments

  1. Last week, the Olympian runner Alysia Montaño heroically broke her nondisclosure agreements with the company to share her pregnancy stories. You can watch it here: https://youtu.be/VYvhKDHsWRE

  2. If you cannot fulfill your obligations due to personal choice, why should I pay you?.. when you are ready to resume your obligations I will start paying you again!

  3. I was born in US but moved and grew up in Europe which they does have 18 weeks paid maternity leave. I also visited Asia and one of it is Philippines which they have 14 weeks paid maternity leave. What’s up US?

  4. We are here to watch you perform athletics not raise a child… all us normal people do that and don’t get paid for it…

  5. of course men are negotiating the contract you know because I’m sure they’d think women are biased when in fact they just know what they NEED to stay healthy and keep a healthy lifestyle while pregnant and after giving birth

  6. I'm not sure what she wants. She is freelance and freelancers have to pay for their own maternity leave until we get government paid maternity leave.

  7. Felix is right, but there is always a flip side… The female principal of my daughter’s elementary school immediately got pregnant as soon as she became principal. The school district provides 6 months fully paid maternity leave. She had the baby, immediately got pregnant again, and took another 6 months. Then she quit. So, she worked for about 1 year and got paid for 2 years. She gamed the system merely to get paid for having kids.

  8. Nike signed Colin Kaepernick for a multi million dollar and he no longer competes in professional sports. And he wasn't signed for his athleticism. Yet they have an issue with competing athletes on maternity leave?

  9. You were paid money weren't you? Why do some ask for Personal favors when they should be the only ones responsible? Keep hiring malcontents Nike, and you'll pay the consequences? Lady, I wouldn't give you a Nickel more than what everyone agreed upon!? This is not the NFL where people can renegotiate, especially after money has transferred hands!

  10. Put some of that money away that nike pays you so you can take a maternity leave. Not that hard. They pay you millions

  11. And you probably earn a huge amount of cash compared to a person on minimum wage. Nike should just not sponsor you anymore. Imagine working 40hours a week in a shop, you will get maternity help but you won't be travelling around the world doing something you love. Money grabbing self worth cow

  12. But you're not doing anything for that amount of time, you're providing a service for them and they pay you for it. But what happens if you stop providing that service? This isn't about sexism it's about business. Maybe negotiate a different contract that involves working out while pregnant or something but they have no obligation to make a different contract for you

  13. if you're a pro athelete why not wait until post career to have a kid?? especially in track and field.

  14. Unreal how we women are treated. Like being a mother is crime yet here they are banning abortion rights across the country

  15. We live in a world that acts like being a woman is a crime.REPRODUCTION IS PART OF BEING HUMAN! ITS HOW WE ALL GOT HERE! How can we treat pregnancy like its an extracarricular activity!YES! ITS PART OF THE HUMAN DEAL!

  16. if they can pay for a mans Viagra they can pay for maternity leave… the only thing that men want to squeeze out of their tiny wholes is….. 😑… so maybe if they stop no one will have to worry about being pregnant

  17. Corporations are not in the business of giving away money if you are employed and dont work especially if there is no language in the Contract saying you get paid if you go on Maternity Leave.
    If the Corporation thinks it can get a return on their investment and you can make millions of dollars for them then they will pay for maternity leave.
    If not then they won't.
    Business 101.
    A Corporation's number one objective is to maximixe profits and dividends for its Stockholders.
    If they wont pay for Maternity Leave it is a business decision not a gender decision.
    You get paid whatever you and your employer agrees to what you are worth. Contract or no Contract.
    IMO, most consumers in this Country do not know who this person A is.
    That is part of her problem.
    Track Stars make way more money in Europe than in America atvTrack events.
    Unless you are a known big name Track Star and American Corporations think you can make money for the business then they may agree to your Contract demands.
    I do not know too many male track stars in the USA making serious money.
    Why?🤔
    Because most of the public only gets to see a lot of them too every 4 years during the Olympics when they get serious print and media coverage.
    Thus, if you have no name recognition male or female before and after the Olympics you cant get the big contract with some Corporations.
    Finally, she needs to negotiate the best contract she can if possible with Nike ir some other shoe company and/or move on.
    A: has been around a long time and she is reaching the WALL.
    It is almost time for her to move on nd find a job in Coaching or get a REGULAR job like everybody else.
    AFTER ALL YOU CAN'T EAT THOSE OLYMPIC MEDALS.
    However, I do wish her good luck in her efforts.
    Str8 like that. !!♊

  18. why not give maternity rights Nike. are you afraid that women will want to make some space for the baby. sounds like tennis they don't want to make space for baby.

  19. NIKE isn’t a social service !! She’s a track athlete, if she gets pregnant then she’s prioritized her current situation. I guess she expects to get paid for the they take off🤨? Now the bully campaign, trying to force Nike.

    I’d cut off negotiations (base it on her current performances) and promote someone who’s hungrier & more driven with fewer distractions🏃🏾‍♂️🏃🏾‍♂️🏃🏾‍♂️

  20. Nike does not employ her full time, they only sponsor her as a runner and a a model (freelancer). If she is not running or modeling for a year, I think the 70% offer was pretty good.

  21. This is insane!! I would have never thought something like this would happen to these athletes, Maternity rights!! How can that legally be denied in this day and age?? We’ve gone from hurting and controlling each other with the sword, to doing it with the pen and laws that protect the strong and do nothing for the little people that make them richer, sad.

  22. Don't sign. Stop complaining about it, gather other individuals who share your ideals, and walk away. That's the only way Nike wil consider what you are asking for.

  23. It's truly sad that America likes to say that we lead in the nation for so many things, however, other countries give much more family friendly maternity leave and vacation time for working individuals. Nike your s trend setter and a boundary breaker. Do better!

  24. I noticed that 95% of these METOO FLAPPERS who is posting they opinions and frustration don't compete in any sports…. y'all not athletes. So you don't know how this works.

  25. I have a question, and I hope it can be received without unnecessary anger and vitriol. If you have a good answer for me, please respond.
    Nike is paying these elite athletes, to be at the top of their games, correct? Nike doesn't give endorsement contracts, to athletes that are 43rd best, or to the average gym goer. These athletes are charged with becoming great, and capitalizing on their greatness. They tend to have small windows to do this – depending on the sport – as all athletes necessarily age, and eventually become less capable in their sport.
    Their potential as a brand will diminish, and Nike will have no obligation to renew contracts pay them at this point … Correct?
    Also, if a younger athlete in his/her prime gets injured and is no longer good at the sport, Nike will have no obligation to renew contracts and pay them at this point … Correct?
    Also, if the athlete makes a personal decision that is potentially damaging to his/her ability to perform – political hunger strike, taking a season off to be with family, personal hard drug use, Nike will have no obligation to renew contracts and pay them at this point … Correct?

    Can we agree on the above?
    If so, I find myself confused by the argument being made in the video … How does Nike have any moral obligation to these athletes, outside of their performance/outside of their ability to sell jerseys, shoes, apparel, etc … Why is Nike supposed to insure athletes against a personal, elective choice which will likely have a less than positive impact on the athlete's ability to maintain their elite status, for a longer period?

    If Tom Brady chose to skip the next NFL season, to raise his children – a perfectly legit choice. Would he not be taking the risk of losing his starting spot on the Patriots? Could he return the following season and find that the team has a new QB? Could the Tom Brady brand and stock be diminished and certain contracts with Nike, etc … not be available to him anymore? Would anyone argue that his endorsement brands must pay him through these choices? Or that the Patriots must start him when he returns?

    Please understand that I am a feminist. I am not speaking or asking from a place of disdain or hatred. I'm asking what I feel to be a logical question, to spark a calm, smart conversation. How can any elite athlete make a moral case for a company like Nike to endorse/insure and pay them, against an elective personal choice, like child rearing?

  26. Nikes right to choose, right? Their company, their choice, right? She has a choice to leave then right? Meanwhile she dont care that shes being paid by a company who exploit asian workers at slave wages so she can get paid for sneakers. Fraudulent.

  27. I have mixed feelings about this. If you sign a contract you should adhere to the terms of the contract. The problem is that the athletes to should push NOT to have this in their contract. Nike is going to push for terms that are favorable to them, as the limited partner in this deal, you should push for terms that meet your sensibilities and/or terms that you can live with.

  28. It's 2019, for the ones who said no, close your eyes and imagine if this were you! MY POINT EXACTLY. I THINK SHE DESERVES THIS MUCH!!!!!-😁😁😘

  29. Worked had for the protection rights it's worth the fight felix ,you must change the way "they thinks".

  30. A legend like this should get all the sponsorship she need when your young they use you for all sponsorship deal as you get older the drop you

  31. Wouldn't it be more empowering to show the pregnant athletes working out, staying fit and eating healthy.
    NIKE we're not that freakin dumb it's not like we've never seen a pregnant woman before 😱

  32. I'm sorry Allyson Felix.
    I do understand you situation.
    Yet, you statistics are inaccurate.
    That is what "they" tell you.
    Infact, black women are the strongest and the most capable under hardships of life. Our history proves it because we are still here.
    Of course, your career puts you at a higher risk because training is rigorous. Because of the rigorous training they should absolutely cover you during childbirth.
    You get all thumbs up on that.
    Btw::::(((CONGRATULATIONS)))

  33. Folk went hook, ladder and sinker when Nike signed Kaepernick! I told everyone, that was not a social justice, but a business decision! Folk didn't want to hear it! Well…..!

  34. She was in the top 1% tier of paid track athletes and has money saved. The vast of majority of female track athletes are NOT sponsored and generating higher earnings and have no money saved. Just think how hard it is for them to!

  35. Which is why we MUST unite with our Original peoples home & abroad, Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, Sisters, Black Families worldwide, to restore; fight against rootless enemies. Starting with self. Peace, Unity and Respect***

  36. to each their own but i find nike running shoes crappy. the few i had worn out quicker than other brands, plus a few times the bottom rubber part just tore away from the rest of the running shoe. my wife had the same problem. a typical greedy corporation that only cares about the dollars, and will jump on any bandwagon so they can make a dollar. look at ex qb colin k…….ashame on nike to treat a golden athlete, such as A. FELIX, who has {REAL CLASS) . like this! we as people have so much power if we stick together and boycott nike. i know i'm only 'one person, but i don't support anything from nike (personal) and because of how they treat and use people. sure, they pay their superstars, but it's pennies from their multi-billion dollar business. smh….

  37. Oh yeah they will parade you down the street when you are promoting their swoosh – get pregnant – Allyson who?

  38. Am pretty sure soccer, wnba, & other sports have the same issues. She still has a strong fan base and needs to stay in the public eye..because she's exactly right.

  39. This story outs the shameful practices of Nike , Women's Sports, and the Medical Industry. Giving birth is required for life to continue on earth! Women should not be penalized for doing what our bodies were created for. Medical Industry should also be held accountable for providing substandard and disproportionate care to African American Women!!

  40. I feel the pain. But I don't agree. Ms Felix works as an independent contractor. I am not sure how Nike is responsible for her getting pregnant. If you knew you wanted to get pregnant you could have saved some of your money and prepared a budget. That's what my wife and I did. And we had 3 children and we work regular jobs. We are not super talented athletes with advertising contracts.

  41. What conceivable reason does a multi-million dollar company like Nike have to justify this?

    Like Hollywood, they applaud themselves as a morality authority and "feminist," but their actions show something different. In Nike's case, they have atrocious pregnancy policies. Men can't have babies because only women can bring forth life, so I can understand why men won't face interruptions like their female counterparts.

    Still, this company should have protections in place for their pregnant athletes.

  42. I feel that we should not wear the brand to she that we support these wonderful women that fight give the United states of America many wins at all costs so support in any way possible please Americans support the ladys✊🏾✊🏾

  43. I love Allyson even more for this.  Athletes should have maternity & paternity rights to allow them to have the best babies and raise the best children possible.

  44. SAFP helping give Alyson Felix an exceptionally strong argument looking at how brilliant her performance following her return back after pregnancy. Gratitude is in order. Thanks Shelly-ann

  45. Question: is Allyson a full-time Nike employee? Or an independent contractor? IF she IS a direct employee, then yes, she deserves maternity protection like the thousands of full-time Nike employees. If she is not – regardless of her Nike endorsements – than it's unusual to ask for full-time employee health benefits WHEN you're an independent contractor.

  46. It's sad that one would even have to fight for such a thing, especially when you're helping to make the company millions and millions of Dollars. This shouldn't be a topic of conversation because maternity should be fair and automatic.

  47. Know what you are getting into and plan your life and only allow what you are willing to live by. You know Nike (and other major brands) don’t support women. They use women for their image. Read your contracts, decide what you are willing to trade off for money, and plan your life accordingly. Not saying Nike is right, of course they are wrong, but you sign contracts and know what they entail. Don’t sign at first for the money, then complain later. This is going on ALOT in the industry. There are too many politics around this issue, It doesn’t matter if they change because that isn’t their actual belief they only did it because of backlash. So you should be ashamed to represent a company like this 🤷🏽‍♀️

  48. You signed a contract based on incentives. When you signed it, you didn't want kids and were happy with the overall structure of the contract, by your own admission. Midway through the life of the contract you changed your mind and decided that you wanted to have kids. Now that you changed your mind, all your previous commitments should be changed too to accommodate your fickleness??? GTFOH!

  49. There is no such thing as "Maternity Protection". If you want to murder babies, don't expect someone else to pay for it.

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