Olympic athlete Alysia Montaño accused Nike of not practicing what they preach after they cut her pay while she was pregnant.

Montaño made headlines when she kept racing while she was pregnant. While she was being presented as the epitome of female empowerment in public, she was battling major corporations in private. She claimed Nike and Asics threatened to cut her sponsorships while she was pregnant.

"I was sponsored by Nike and when I told them that I wanted to have a baby during my career, they told me ‘simple, we’ll just pause your contract and stop paying you,’” Montaño recalled in a video she did for The New York Times.  She left Nike and went to Asics but she experienced similar treatment.

Montaño also experienced resistance from the U.S. Olympic Committee, who “strips our health insurance if we do not stay at the top of our game during our pregnancy.”

The sobering experience inspired Montaño to fight to ensure other mothers do not have similar experiences. She asserted placing strict requirements on recovering mothers puts “our health at risk.” Montaño returned to the field six months after having her daughter and won the world championship. When she was training, she wore braces and ran with taped abs because they “were torn apart.” She also pumped breast milk for 10 days and shipped it back to her daughter when she was overseas.

“I was pissed. I was very upset at the fact that there was not a policy in place that would protect me,” she continued. “I fought tooth and nail to make sure that this would not happen to other women.”

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Other female athletes expressed the risk they take when they choose motherhood.

“Getting pregnant is the kiss of death for a female athlete,” said runner Phoebe Wright told NYT in a reported piece. She was sponsored by the company from 2010 until 2016. “There’s no way I’d tell Nike if I were pregnant.”

Kara Goucher, another Olympian, carries guilt for training while her child was hospitalized for an illness. Even though she wanted to be with her son, she started running again to make a living for her family.

“I felt like I had to leave him in the hospital, just to get out there and run, instead of being with him like a normal mom would,” Goucher said. “I’ll never forgive myself for that.”

Montaño accused sponsors of using confidentiality clauses and nondisclosure agreements to get away with unethical contract requirements.

Montaño believes Nike should make good on the supposedly feminist slogans they use in their ad campaigns. She believes sponsors should “stop treating pregnancies like injuries” and institute maternity leave.

“How about when you tell my daughter she can achieve anything, you back it up?” Montaño said.

In a statement to CBS, Nike said it changed its policy in 2018 to accommodate mothers. It is unclear if any current contracts were updated.

"Nike is proud to sponsor thousands of female athletes,” the company said “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 recognized that there was inconsistency in our approach across different sports and in 2018 we standardized our approach across all sports so that no female athlete is penalized financially for pregnancy."

Asics said they pay their athletes during pregnancy and after childbirth.

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