Nike and Pregnancy: Your Questions, Answered

While Nike promotes gender equality in its ads, their sponsored athletes say they risk losing pay if they become pregnant.

Comments: 43

  1. I don’t understand the point. Nike is in the business of making money and commercial advertisement is a critical tool for their business. As a consumer, why I would like to see a pregnant athlete. The athletes are paid very well. Pregnancy is their choice- take time off. Get back to shape after the child is born. Be at the top of the game to earn the business from Nike. It is simple.

  2. @Rm Wow "why would I like to see a pregnant athlete?" I as a woman I would like to see one. For the same reason for which I like in general to see real stories in advertising. Real people tend to lie less than artificial made-up profiles. That athlete that I admire is a human, has children, has ups and downs. I think that the pregnancy of an athlete is just a different competition with herself. What I do not want to see in publicity are flawed people who dope themselves, cheat or commit antisocial acts. I also do not want to see an athlete being pushed to compete before they fully recover.

  3. As an out of shape middle age married guy I want a deal for being me!

  4. @Rm "Why would I want to see a pregnant athlete?" How about because it's a natural part of life? Pregnancy isn't a vacation. And pregnant athletes can still be role models, even if they may apparently be less appealing for you to stare at.

  5. The vast majority of the athletes Nike provides support to have little or no marketing value for Nike. The company supports these people out of a desire to help athletes not because it benefits from the relationship. Sure Woods and Federer get millions, but they are the few. Nike provides training facilities, housing and stipends to hundreds of athletes you’ve never heard of and will never hear of. Stop this whining before you convince Nike that it’s not worth being such a Good Samaritan any more.

  6. @James Nike is a business, not a Good Samaritan. Their support of minor athletes is a form of marketing. In the case of Alysia Montano,however, we're talking about an elite athlete. What she has done in order to keep competing is truly remarkable and admirable. I hope one of the other sports companies offers her a contract complete with maternity coverage.

  7. @James Omigod, how naive can you be? Just because a competitor isn't on TV or Youtube doesn't mean they don't have marketing value. A woman tennis player wears a Nike dress at a tournament. She doesn't win, but girls and women in the crowd see the dress and like it and buy it. That's going to happen a lot more often than someone buying one of Serena's outfits. And do you think Nike provides these training facilities, housing and stipends solely out of the goodness of its heart? You don't think it's out there trying to get every athlete to wear its shoes, its clothes, appear in its ads? It's creating its own market, just like any business would. Phil Knight donated to University of Oregon, but when students there rallied against sweatshop labor and got the administration to support them, he withdrew his money.

  8. Anyone, including sponsored athletes, who signs a contract is expected to observe its terms. That’s why it’s called a contract, a negotiated specification of the mutual obligations of parties who sign the contract.

  9. @Mon Ray This is not about contracts being broken. It is about the attempt to get Nike to offer better contracts to recognize the unique needs of female athletes.

  10. This article doesn't state the obvious so I will. Both male and female elite athletes under contract to sporting goods companies start families. Intentionally and non-intentionally. But only male athletes are free to do so and continue their careers uninterrupted. It's time for another step in the evolution of women's participation in sports: recognition of and support for the unique role women play in making a family. And I'll bet some male athletes would like their contracts to include paternity leave.

  11. Did I just read an opinion piece that people should be paid for not doing their jobs? Athletes must be in top physical condition. Pregnancy is incompatible with athletic competition. Feminism gone to a mentally ill extreme? Yes. Athletes are paid to be great athletes. Take time away from training and competing for more than six months, Nike does not have to pay because..... you are not performing as you were contracted to perform. Do not demean female athletes. They can be athletes at elite levels or have kids. You cannot do both.

  12. @EWG Effects of advertising tend to last more than one year. You buy a pair of brand shoes/clothes and if you are satisfied you keep buying the same brand. The athlete that introduced you to the brand is kicked after six months. As an active person I want to see role models in advertising. Someone that could inspire me to get out of the couch after giving birth. I am really interested in what a heavier yet very active person would choose to wear. It is not mentally ill feminism. I buy their products and I want their products to reflect life: pregnancy, recovery of physically active women. I hated all the loose variants I had after pregnancy, the shoes were not ok for my feet who were getting tired from the sudden extra weight. Nobody is asking NIKE to pay people for doing nothing. It just asking NIKE to not force them to participate in competitions risking injuries before they could do it physically safe. It takes almost six months for a woman body to recover and almost a year to get back (if they can of course) to a top shape.

  13. @EWG I,too,found this article extremely anti-feminist. The whole idea with feminism is choice. You choose to run. You choose to be a mother. Interestingly, the article does not mention the right of men who are sponsored to take up to three months off to be at home to support their wife and newborn child.

  14. @D. Arnold I think you are missing half the equation. It takes two to make a family, whether or not those two “choose” to continue living as a family. The point is that men suffer no economic impact from starting a family, whether or not they do so by “choice” (as is clearly stated in the article BTW). There would be no families without women, and they should not be penalized (but rather exalted some might say) for their role in reproduction.

  15. Really? "exclusively male cast of executives at Nike who negotiate contracts for track and field athletes" Speak up, Nike. Stop defending the past: get with it.

  16. Wow! This is a GREAT opinion piece! And well done! I totally agree with Alysia Montano. Wise up, Nike. Until I hear that you’ve changed your behavior and approach, I won’t be buying your shoes. Or anything else. And I urge others to do the same.

  17. women can be athletes. women can be pregnant. women can be athletes who are pregnant it's the year 2019 and this is a problem

  18. No more Nike for me. Done.

  19. While they provide a distraction and inspiration for some athletes are certainly not an essential component for society. Most of us would love to get paid to pursue our hobbies.

  20. @D. Arnold Athletes are paid by private corporations in this case, not the government, and they are competing at a professional level, not as hobbyists. Apples and oranges.

  21. The real issue is not Nike but rather the lack of government-provided maternity leave. I was born and grew up in the USA but have lived most of my adult life in Israel. My maternity leave payments came from the equivalent of the Social Security Administration and applied whether I was an independent contractor, self -employed or salaried (at the time, 3 months of leave, now extended to 14 weeks)

  22. @Carole - Both issues are real. Federally funded safety nets supplement those provided by employers. At minimum, the athlete's sponsoring employer should continue to provide insurance and cease classifying pregnancy as disqualifying illness. AND those who are not employed should receive the same benefit from the state, albeit at non-negotiated rates. Even better for the athletes would be some sort of unionization. Although Colin Kapernick was still victimized for his principled free speech stance, the existence of a players union offered him some support. Collective bargaining is one of the most powerful tools workers of any kind can use to achieve fair wages and working conditions.

  23. It seems to depend on the company: "Runner Stephanie Bruce has benefited from a team that embraced her identity as a professional athlete and a mother. Her sponsor, Hoka One One, supported her through the birth of two children with no stipulations on when she needed to return to racing." Nike is certainly less pregnant-woman friendly. So why is it only about Nike? There are more progressive companies. Present them also.

  24. Let's be clear: professional athletes are not fully contractors for the companies who sponsor them. They are also sales and spokespeople who promote the company and push their products. This could be characterized as employee work. An athlete can't decide to wear Nike products for one event and then ASICS for the next one. You are expected to use and promote their product for years so to suspend the contract for pregnancy (but not injury?) seems like a huge injustice.

  25. Nike, which is a global sport company, must show the integrity of fairness with their sponsored athletes. They are making billions of money and they should be front runners in protecting mothers and children. The more you are famous, the bigger the company, the more moral responsibility they must bear. JUST DO IT!

  26. This really seems like a self-inflicted wound for Nike. The cost to them of continuing to pay athletes through maternity leave and postpartum is negligible, certain in comparison to what they're paying basketball or soccer stars. And in fact they could make a big show of promoting their relationship with these athletes, and that it includes supporting them as mothers. Their approach just seems so tone-deaf. Not mentioned here, but possibly worse is the US Olympic Committee suspending health insurance coverage if an athlete isn't competing during a maternity break. Seriously?

  27. Six months protects them from women that are ALREADY PREGNANT, without asking the question. Does no one here get that?

  28. The "exclusivity" clause is particularly problematic. There may be companies who would be happy to offer a contract to a pregnant elite athlete to show women that they support the right to be pregnant...and still be a professional athlete. But Nike doesn't want to see that happen. Their exclusivity clause shows that they want to "have their cake, and eat it too"!

  29. More than 1/2 of the consumer market is female. Females have babies. Many of these females like to see inspiring stories of female athletes having babies, returning to competition, and succeeding. Nike (and other companies) should see the value in this. There is a way to have this be win-win. And for all the haters out there, I think what this article is asking is that there be consistency and clarity in the contracts that covers the natural human condition of pregnancy and the time needed before returning to competition, for those who wish to do so.

  30. Contracts are not a one way street. They are not standard, are two way and negotiated. While I agree that there is no good reason not to have contractual protection for women athletes during pregnancy (especially when a contract is exclusive), you cannot make a judgment about this without understanding what was gotten to get this concession. Or you need to understand what would be given up to get this.

  31. @Johnk Contracts are often a one-way street, as you will have experienced in numerous circumstances in your life, probably including your own employment. The act of signing a contract does not render its contents moral or fair, as you seem to concede in your post. Unfortunately, the disparity in bargaining power against a juggernaut like Nike will be great even for the better-known athletes, but especially for the young athletes who have not acquired business acumen. I would not be so quick to assume that the price for giving up their right to maternity rest was fair or reasonable or reflected in their value to the company.

  32. I see a lot of people commenting along the lines of "Nike is missing out by not advertising to pregnant women and mothers", but it seems to me that Nike already has this demographic in the bag. Why would they change? They pay their marketing department obscene amounts of money to determine whether supporting pregnant athletes would actually be a good investment. If they decide to start supporting pregnant athletes, it'll be because the market demands it, not because of some vague moral obligation to women and society. There are plenty of other companies you could support who don't have 12 year olds in third world countries making their shoes for them.

  33. Until our society starts valuing pregnant women and the act of giving birth to and raising children, women will always be caught up in this Catch-22. Why are so many women deciding not to have kids? The answer is right in front of you.

  34. Why is this fundamental labor issue being examined through the lens of extremely wealthy athletes that can afford to pay for childcare and healthcare costs? What about the millions of women working minimum wage that have to deal with this same issue? c'mon nyt

  35. @David the article notes that many of these sponsored athletes are only making 5 figures which is not extreme wealth and may be or are the primary breadwinners for their families. The athletes at that level may be making close to minimum wage when you factor in the number of hours of training they put in plus costs for gear, travel, etc that is not supplied by the sponsor.

  36. Nike, just went on your site to comment and I could not find a link to comment so here is my comment. Nike, I buy your products; been buying them for years. You need to address this policy. Do you support pregnant women or not? Or do you support the bottom line on a spreadsheet?

  37. Equity: Just do it!

  38. The only reasonable response to this article would involve expletives--many, many, expletives.

  39. To me, it's the issue of hypocrisy that speaks the loudest. How can Nike make these advertisements celebrating its athletes who are mothers and simultaneously not support their pregnancies? Are you telling me Nike doesn't have the money to do this? Give me a break.

  40. Their slogan is, “Just Do It”, but what they don’t tell you is that if you can’t “Do It”, they aren’t paying you. Do they pay injured male athletes? If you can’t Swoosh, you don’t get the juice.

  41. Nike's policy is part of this country's hypocrisy toward family values. Pregnant women are beautiful but should not be accommodated in any way in the working world. Men continue to make the rules and those rules are designed to make sure women do not ever reach a position which allows women to make the rules.

  42. Why aren't more women commenting on such an important issue on here? Where are the men's comments? oops... I forgot ... this isn't an issue that matters to them. I was amazed watching a pregnant woman cross the finished line. I wish we would see more of them. So important for women to know their limits are limitless. As a woman that is a skier and has skied around the world, I travel by myself to different places and often find people are surprised when I do this by myself. If I was a man, would they be glorifying him. They would "high-five" the man too. EVERY woman should push their boundaries - bravo to this runner showing us and teaching us - yes, its possible ! MANY THANKS !

  43. My daughter is in Elementary school & she runs track and she is really good. I would like her to continue running when she goes to High School, College and possibly professionally. I wouldn't want her to have to choose between her career and a family. We should #BOYCOTTNIKE until something is done.