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Gold Medalist Accuses Nike of Punishing Her 'for Being Pregnant'

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Sportswear titan Nike has been no stranger to controversy in the last year.

Its campaign ad with polarizing former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been divisive, to say the least.

Then there was the company’s PR fiasco after then-Duke superstar and likely future New Orleans Pelican Zion Williamson blew out his Nike shoes in a nationally televised game against rival North Carolina.

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Shares in Nike dropped 1.1 percent in the immediate aftermath of Williamson’s show incident, which represented a $1.1 billion decline in stock value, according to CBS News.

After that, there was the debacle with disgraced celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti in which the company was accused of paying top collegiate athletes to attend Nike-sponsored schools. While this particular controversy seems to say more about Avenatti than Nike, it’s still not a headline any business would want to be associated with.

Now, Nike finds itself in another maelstrom of controversy after Jo Pavey, a British Olympic runner and 10,000-meter gold medalist at the 2014 European Championships, made some fairly damning allegations against the apparel company while speaking to Sky News.

“When I announced I was pregnant my contract was immediately paused,” Pavey said.

“One of the main problems is the target to get the contract back and the timescale,” she said. “It was the joy of running that kept me going because you think ‘what will, be will be,’ and I was focused on being a mum. But you don’t want to feel punished for being pregnant.”

Pavey’s claims are in line with what several female U.S. runners said in a New York Times opinion piece Sunday written by Lindsay Crouse with Alysia Montano, an Olympic runner and three-time U.S. national champion.

“Getting pregnant is the kiss of death for a female athlete,” said Phoebe Wright, a runner sponsored by Nike from 2010 through 2016.

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“There’s no way I’d tell Nike if I were pregnant,” she said.

Crouse and Montano said Nike’s promotion of women and gender equality is “just advertising.”

“Nike acknowledged in a statement that some of its sponsored athletes have had their sponsorship payments reduced because of pregnancies,” they wrote. “But the company says it changed its approach in 2018 so that athletes are no longer penalized. Nike declined to say if it wrote those changes into its contracts.”

Should female athletes have maternity clauses in their contracts?

However, a 2019 Nike track and field contract obtained by The Times still explicitly states that Nike can reduce an athlete’s pay for “any reason” if certain performance thresholds are not met, the article said.

“There are no exceptions for childbirth, pregnancy or maternity,” Crouse and Montano wrote.

Per Fox News, a Nike representative said the company “is proud to sponsor thousands of female athletes. As is common practice, our agreements do include contractual performance obligations.

“Historically, a few female athletes had reduced payments based on failure to meet their contractual performance obligations. We recognized that there was a need for more consistency in our approach and in 2018 we standardized our approach across all sports so that no female athlete is penalized financially for pregnancy.”

Kneeling for the anthem or calling police officers pigs and slave wranglers? Nike has no issue with that. Potentially shady college dealings and faulty equipment? The company doesn’t want you to worry about it too much.

But apparently, a woman trying to become a mother is where Nike draws its line.

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Bryan Chai has written news and sports for The Western Journal for more than two years and has produced more than 1,300 stories. He specializes in the NBA and NFL as well as politics.
Bryan Chai has written news and sports for The Western Journal for more than two years and has produced more than 1,300 stories. He specializes in the NBA and NFL as well as politics. He graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. He is an avid fan of sports, video games, politics and debate.
Birthplace
Hawaii
Education
Class of 2010 University of Arizona. BEAR DOWN.
Location
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, Korean
Topics of Expertise
Sports, Entertainment, Science/Tech




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