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Top Female Runners Fight a New Battle

Allyson Felix is among those fighting the loss of corporate sponsorships over pregnancy
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 28, 2019 12:00 PM CDT
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In this June 26, 2014 file photo, Alysia Montano, foreground, who was 34 weeks pregnant, competes in the quarterfinals of the 800 meter event at the US outdoor track and field championships in Sacramento, Calif.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
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(Newser) – For decades, the message to women in track and field was crystal clear: get pregnant, lose sponsorship money. A rebellion led by some of the sport's top runners, Allyson Felix, Kara Goucher and Alysia Montano, is helping to change that, the AP reports. Two months after the US women's soccer players stated their case for equal pay, women in track and field come to their major event, the world championships in Doha, having found their footing on another important crusade—retaining full pay from their sponsorship deals after they get pregnant. "It's the power of the collective," says Felix. "Alysia speaking, Kara speaking, the women's soccer team. It's just such a pivotal time right now in women's sports, and we're seeing change happen."

The six-time Olympic and 11-time world champion had a baby girl in November and will compete on the women's relay team next week at the worlds in Doha, where she will have a new apparel sponsor, Athleta, after spending years with Nike. Nike responded to the outcry, as well, announcing in May that it would not apply performance-related pay reductions for pregnant athletes for a consecutive period of 12 months. Then, last month, the company expanded that to 18 months—starting eight months before the due date—and pledged to include specific language about pregnancy in its contracts to reinforce the policy. "We recognize we can do more and that there is an important opportunity for the sports industry to evolve to support female athletes," Nike says in a statement. Click for the full article.

(Read more women in sport stories.)

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