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Nike confirms pregnant athletes faced pay cut

PREGNANCY PAY CUTS: Alysia Montaño, second from left, has spoken about the penalties female athletes face when they chose to have children

NIKE HAS confirmed that female athletes it sponsored did face pay reductions if they got pregnant in the past.

The brand issued a statement following a New York Times article in which several US runners said their earnings were at risk of being reduced during pregnancy and after giving birth.

Alysia Montaño told The New York Times that when she told nike she wanted to have a baby during the time she was being sponsored by the brand, it said: “Simple, we’ll just pause your contract and stop paying you.”

“The sports industry allows for men to have a full career and when a woman decides to have a baby it pushes women out at their prime,” she said.

The US Olympian kept training when she was pregnant with her first child, competing at eight months pregnant, and earned the moniker "the pregnant runner".

The mother-of-two left Nike and went to Asics but faced the prospect of similar pay penalties.

Montaño, who has fought for maternity legislation to protect pregnant athletes from losing their health insurance, called on companies and sporting authorities to stop treating pregnancies like injuries and criticised brands including Nike for telling women and girls that they can do anything in their adverts but failing to back it up behind the scenes.

Runners Phoebe Wright and Kara Goucher also shared their experiences with the publication.

Goucher said she was forced to choose between competing just three months after giving birth in order that her pay was restarted or staying in the hospital to care for her sick son.

The New York Times has reported that most people it spoke to about the issue wanted to remain anonymous because they were fearful of the consequences. Montaño said confidentiality clauses were used to keep athletes from speaking out.

Responding to the claims, Nike said it has reviewed its performance pay policy.

In a statement it said: “Nike is proud to sponsor thousands of female athletes. As is common practice in our industry, our agreements do include performance-based payment reductions. Historically, a few female athletes had performance based reductions applied. We recognised that there was inconsistency in our approach across different sports and in 2018 we standardised our approach across all sports so that no female athlete is penalised financially for pregnancy.”

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