Athlete Mothers Are Speaking Out Against Nike

Jun+26%2C+2014%3B+Sacramento%2C+CA%2C+USA%3B+Alysia+Montano+runs+in+a+womens+800m+heat+while+34+months+pregnant+in+the+2014+USA+Championships+at+Hornet+Stadium.
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Athlete Mothers Are Speaking Out Against Nike

Jun 26, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; Alysia Montano runs in a womens 800m heat while 34 months pregnant in the 2014 USA Championships at Hornet Stadium.

Jun 26, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; Alysia Montano runs in a womens 800m heat while 34 months pregnant in the 2014 USA Championships at Hornet Stadium.

Image of Sport

Jun 26, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; Alysia Montano runs in a womens 800m heat while 34 months pregnant in the 2014 USA Championships at Hornet Stadium.

Image of Sport

Image of Sport

Jun 26, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; Alysia Montano runs in a womens 800m heat while 34 months pregnant in the 2014 USA Championships at Hornet Stadium.

Abby Collins, Staff Writer

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Needless to say, girls born in the twenty-first century are being raised into a drastically different world than that of just a century ago. Social norms and gender roles have adjusted, allowing girls to prove that most tasks are not limited to males. This is especially true in the realm of sports, as parents are exposing their daughters to athletics at an early age, and professional sports are featuring women’s teams. From recreational leagues to the Olympic Games, females have been allowed to show their strength without the controversy of past times.

Athletic brands have not hesitated to join in on this social movement. Acclaimed apparel brands like Nike and Adidas have even helped facilitate the movement, predominantly through their marketing. Television commercials, social media videos, and graphic designs featuring female athletes provoke emotion in consumers and promote the support of women in sports. It seems that these companies are not merely accepting women; they are empowering them. However, professional athletes have spoken out against these brands, exposing unfair treatment.

Olympic track and field runner and U.S. national champion Alysia Montaño released a powerful video through the New York Times, mimicking the advertisement style of Nike, in which she shared her negative experience with the major company during her pregnancy. Her story has spread rapidly through the media, causing sporting goods brands to take action.

Professional runners, like Montaño, receive the income to support their families primarily through contracts with athletic brands rather than a salary from a league. These contracts bind athletes to the brand, and the athletes are paid for using their products and serving as an outlet for advertisement. With this amount of dependence on brands, Montaño feels that it is easy for the companies to control the runners they sponsor. In fact, she states that Nike gave her a choice between a family and her pay.

For a professional female runner, getting pregnant can be detrimental; brands like Nike can cut the pay of athletes, and runners can lose their health insurance. The policies that allow this to happen treat pregnancy like an injury, forcing the mothers to push themselves to unhealthy extremes during their pregnancy and return to training without fully recovering from childbirth. Montaño experienced this firsthand, as she forced herself to compete at a national championship eight months into her pregnancy. Running her race as a pregnant woman was a bold statement against the sporting good industry and a symbol of female strength.

Montaño has become an advocate for female athletes to receive a proper maternity leave. She is a fighter for women runners to stop fearing pregnancy and exercise their right to start a family. Since the passionate mother has raised her voice, Nike has received backlash, and has been moved to change their policies. Athletes hope that these changes will create greater equality in sports, so female athletes will not face such restrictions.

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