Following her 2019 claims that Nike penalized her and other pregnant athletes, Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix recently gave more details about her take on the dispute.
Nike had been a longtime sponsor of Felix before she spoke out against them in a revealing 2019 exposé by the New York Times. Nike asked her to be in a female-empowerment advertisement amid her then-ongoing contract negotiations with them regarding her maternity protections. She and the brand later ended up parting ways.
Felix, who took her advocacy for Black maternal health all the way to Congress that same year, said to Time recently, “I was like, this is just beyond disrespectful and tone-deaf” regarding Nike’s behavior back then.
The athlete later went on to partner with Athleta, “becoming the women-focused apparel brand’s first athlete sponsor.” Moreover, late last month she shared that she’s now launching her own athletic lifestyle brand called Saysh.
“Nike sometimes, they feel like you don’t have another option,” she told Time. “So they can get away with stuff like that because, where are you going to go? And I think that’s how I was always perceived: ‘She’s never going to say anything. She’s never going to speak out.'”
Felix shared with Time that for the majority of her career she’d felt as though her job was to maintain her status as an award-winning professional athlete and not necessarily be one who also spoke out on social issues.
“It has to be this pretty, pretty package. That’s always been in the back of my head,” she’d explained, before adding, “And that’s not real.”
In its defense, Nike told Time they’ve since “expanded its payment protections for pregnant women and new mothers” following its falling out with Felix.
“We regularly have conversations with our athletes regarding the many initiatives we run around the world,” the athletic brand expressed. Additionally, it noted, “Nike has supported thousands of female athletes for decades. We have learned and grown in how to best support our female athletes.”
Felix finished in second place in the 400-meter sprint at the Olympic Track and Field Trials last month and subsequently secured her spot on the US Team for the fast approaching Tokyo Olympics. It’ll be the fifth Olympic Games she’s competed in. She currently holds nine Olympic medals.
Read the full feature Time did on Felix here.