Details on the separation between six-time Olympic champions Allyson Felix and Nike keep coming to light. The track star split from her long-term sponsor two years ago.
But now, the owner of her own athleisure brand, Saysh, Felix says the recklessness that Nike has shown her has been deeper than wage cuts. Felix and the corporate giant got into an argument when the sprinter became pregnant with their first child, daughter Camryn. She says the company threatened to cut her salary by 70 percent and refused to offer contractual wage protection for her and other aspiring athletes.
But in public, Nike wanted consumers to believe they were pro-women who have “everything,” and even went so far as to invite Felix to take part in a women’s empowerment ad shortly after their daughter was born in November 2018 .
“My stomach fell over,” said Felix in an interview published this week. The most highly decorated athlete in the country had tense negotiations with Nike, a company she believed aligned with her own core values, only to realize that she and other female athletes were only profitable if they chose not to raise a family . The stab of insult was deep.
“I thought to myself, this is just more than disrespectful and deaf. That’s when I decided to speak up. ”In May 2019, Felix penned a commentary for the New York Times detailing how Nike refused to change terms and conditions that would enable mothers-to-be and young mothers to make a living Earning level before pregnancy.
“I asked Nike to contractually guarantee that I would not be punished if I didn’t do my best in the months surrounding the birth … Nike refused,” she wrote.
Although the company would eventually compromise in August 2019 by agreeing not to cut benefits for a year after the birth, the company now says in a statement to Time: “We have regular discussions with our athletes about the many initiatives that we perform around the world. Nike has supported thousands of women athletes for decades. We have learned and grown how we can best support our athletes. “
But Nike’s 2019 compromise was too little, too late.
“Nike sometimes they feel like you have no other choice. So that they get away with things like that, because where are you going, ”says Felix.
Felix decided to leave the company she had sponsored for more than a decade and instead chose the female-run Athleta. Felix is the company’s first sponsored athlete. And when she returned to the Olympic Trials in June, she made sure she was representing her lifestyle brand by taking part in a pair of Saysh spikes. She qualified for the fifth Olympic Games over 400 meters and thus returned to the Games, her first as a mother.