Olympic athlete Alysia Montaño is calling out Nike for its hypocritical treatment of pregnant athletes. In a video for the New York Times, she points out the disconnect between the companies inspirational advertisements and its actual policies.
The video was a parody of Nike's "Dream Crazier" campaign narrated by Serena Williams and featuring other female athletes. The original ad highlights the accomplishments of female athletes, and urged women to defy expectations and "show them what crazy can do."
"If you want to be an athlete and a mother, well that’s just crazy,” Montaño said in a voice over for her video. Montaño has a four-year-old daughter and a one-year-old son. The athlete said that when she told Nike she was pregnant, the company said they would pause her sponsorship and stop paying her. She also said the the U.S. Olympic Committee threatened to strip her health insurance if she could maintain her athletic ability during pregnancy.
"I was pissed," she said. "I was very upset at the fact that there was not a policy in place that would protect me, and I fought tooth and nail to make sure that this would not happen to other women."
She later left Nike and went to Asics, where she was able to have her daughter without getting her pay reduced. However, while she was on maternity leave and recovering from childbirth, the company also threatened to stop paying her.
“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," she said.
Montaño said that after she had her daughter, she competed and won two National Championships. Pregnancy and childbirth is very hard on your core, and Montaño had to tape her abs together and wear a brace in order to train and recover from pregnancy at the rate the Olympic Committee wanted her to.
The New York Times pointed out that all four Nike executives who are in charge of sponsorship contracts are men. A 2019 contract shared with the New York Times said that the company had the right to reduce an athlete's pay due to performance issues, with no exceptions for childbirth, pregnancy or maternity. Nike also told the Times that it had "changed its approach" to not penalize athletes for pregnancy.
When contacted about what their specific approach was, Nike did not reply.