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Nike Takes New Steps to Support Female Runners After Backlash Over Maternity Policy

Sheena Butler-Young

Nike is answering the call of those who took the brand to task this week over its previous maternity policy — or lack thereof — for female runners.

The company said on Friday that it is taking new measures to support female athletes throughout their pregnancies after it received a wave of backlash following a New York Times article last weekend. The write-up called attention to a discrepancy in the way Nike, at one time, wrote its contracts for female track and field athletes.

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The story revealed that Nike reduced the payments of female runners — and sometimes paid them nothing at all — if they were unable to compete for various reasons, including pregnancy and the subsequent postpartum period.

Nike this week admitted that it had previously reduced the contracts of female runners but said it amended the policy last year.

On Friday, the brand said it now recognizes “we can go even further.”

“Moving forward, our contracts for female athletes will include written terms that reinforce our policy,” a statement read on the firm’s corporate site. “Our mission has always been to support athletes as they strive to be their best. We want to make it clear today that we support women as they decide how to be both great mothers and great athletes. We recognize we can do more and that there is an important opportunity for the sports industry to evolve to support female athletes.”

The controversy ignited by the Times article — which included comments from former Nike-sponsored female runners Kara Goucher and Alysia Montaño — has compelled other brands to speak out and clarify their own policies. Under Armour, New Balance and Asics told FN this week that they do not reduce the contracts of female runners during pregnancy or the postpartum period.

In a statement on Friday, Brooks Running also told FN that it is upping its efforts to support the female runners it sponsors.

“At Brooks we believe in supporting our athletes in the pursuit of their dreams, which includes starting a family,” the company said. “We will not reduce our female athletes pay or terminate a contract due to pregnancy or postpartum recovery. We will reflect this intention in all current and future contracts to provide much-deserved peace of mind to all of our athlete partners.”

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