It has recently been reported that global powerhouse Nike has allegedly been freezing the sponsorship pay to female athletes after they became pregnant. British runner Jo Pavey and several US runners including Alysia Montaño, Phoebe Wright and Kara Goucher have alleged that Nike, in fact, cut their pay resulting in them accusing the brand’s sponsorship deals as discriminating against female athletes.
Pavey, a five-time Olympian, told Sky News that the company froze her payments when she revealed that she was expecting her first child Jacob, who was born in 2009.
“When I announced I was pregnant my contract was immediately paused,” Pavey, who won 10,000 metres bronze at the 2007 world championships, told Sky.
“One of the main problems is the target to get the contract back and the timescale,” she said.
“It was the joy of running that kept me going because you think, What will be will be and I was focused on being a mum. But you don’t want to feel punished for being pregnant.”
Pavey’s comments come after American middle distance runner Alysia Montano made similar claims in a video on the New York Times website earlier this week.
“I was sponsored by Nike and when I told them I wanted to have a baby during my career, they said, Simple, we’ll just pause your contract and stop paying you”
These developments are worrying for any woman in sport who wants to start a family during their career. To be given an ultimatum on whether to be paid or have a child which is a natural right for anyone is a disastrous look for Nike and any company with these values.
It could be damaging in terms of the recruitment of female athletes into sponsorship packages. To have to face a discriminating choice like this when their livelihoods and the quality of life for their family is at risk they may choose to look elsewhere.