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Volume 26 No. 175
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Nike's Maternity Leave Policy For Track & Field Athletes In Spotlight

Nike has reduced some athletes' payments during pregnancies, but says it has changed its approach
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Nike has reduced some athletes' payments during pregnancies, but says it has changed its approach
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Nike has reduced some athletes' payments during pregnancies, but says it has changed its approach
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Sports take a "heavy toll on the human body, and sponsors accommodate this with time off for injuries," but "rarely do they offer enough time off to have a child," according to U.S. middle-distance runner Alysia Montano in a special to the N.Y. TIMES under the header, "Nike Told Me To Dream Crazy, Until I Wanted A Baby." While Nike's multi-billion-dollar track and fieldindustry "praises women for having families in public" -- it "doesn’t guarantee them a salary during pregnancy and early maternity." U.S. runner Kara Goucher "learned that Nike would stop paying her until she started racing again." But she was "already pregnant." So, she "scheduled a half-marathon three months after she had her son, Colt." Then her son "got dangerously ill," and Goucher "had to choose again: be with her son or prepare for the race that she hoped would restart her pay." Nike "acknowledged in a statement that some of its sponsored athletes have had their sponsorship payments reduced because of pregnancies." But the company said that it "changed its approach" in '18 so that athletes are "no longer penalized." According to a '19 Nike track and field contract, Nike can still "reduce an athlete’s pay 'for any reason' if the athlete doesn’t meet a specific performance threshold, for example a top five world ranking." There are "no exceptions for childbirth, pregnancy or maternity" (NYTIMES.com, 5/12).

BALANCING ACT: In Portland, Jamie Goldberg noted the NWSL Players Association "estimates that there are seven players with children currently competing in the nine-team league." Finding balance can be "especially difficult for NWSL players, who get by on only modest salaries and aren’t guaranteed paid maternity leave." Portland Thorns MF Dagny Brynjarsdottir said, “It’s definitely possible to do both. But it’s a challenge.” Goldberg noted NWSL players "don’t currently have a collective bargaining agreement with the league and do not receive compulsory support from their clubs to help offset the challenges of pregnancy and motherhood" (OREGONLIVE.com, 5/10).