On Mother's Day, The New York Times opinion section published a video about Nike-sponsored Olympic runner Alysia Montaño, who says that when she became pregnant the sportswear giant paused her contract without pay.
Montaño's message alleged hypocrisy in Nike's new ad campaign, "Dream Crazier," which advocates for gender equality.
She and fellow Olympian Kara Goucher say company policy dictates that it can reduce the pay of any athlete who cannot compete after a six-month grace period, pushing pregnant women to train during and directly after childbirth.
"I felt like I had to leave [my son] in the hospital, just to get out there and run, instead of being with him like a normal mom would," Goucher told the New York Times. "I'll never forgive myself for that."
Montaño says women sponsored by companies like Nike should be granted maternity leave, something not offered now because athletes are considered to essentially be freelancers.
"Nike's contracts are exclusive, making it hard to scavenge for additional money on the side," New York Times writer Lindsay Crouse wrote. "And then there's the hypocrisy issue: If you're going to preach gender equality, why not take the lead?"
In response to the criticism, Nike spokesperson Greg Rossiter tells WW that the company is "proud to sponsor thousands of female athletes."
He does not say that Nike plans to institute maternity leave policy, but says the company has shifted its policies around pay reductions.
"There were inconsistencies in our approach across different sports in the past," Rossiter says, "but in 2018 we standardized our approach across all sports so that no female athlete is penalized financially for pregnancy."
Read the New York Times' full story, and watch Montaño's video, here.