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Nike is changing the way it handles contracts with elite female athletes that choose to become pregnant, according to Sports Illustrated.  

In a letter from Nike EVP of Global Sports Marketing, John Slusher, to the company’s sponsored athletes last week, first tweeted by ESPN’s Emmanuel Acho, there was a clear change to the issue of pay for pregnant athletes. In part, the letter read:

“If ATHLETE becomes pregnant, NIKE may not apply any performance-related reductions (if any) for a consecutive period of 18 months, beginning eight months prior to ATHLETE’s due date. During such period NIKE may not apply any right of termination (if any) as a result of ATHLETE not competing due to pregnancy.”

A necessary change for Nike and a victory for female athletes that could be game changing.

Nike received backlash this spring, first from Olympic marathoner Alysia Montano’s New York Times’ op-ed and then from Olympic track star Allyson Felix’s piece.

Global icon and tennis legend Serena Williams (also a Nike athlete) was paid during her 2017 pregnancy and subsequent health issues as a result of her pregnancy.

Williams stood by the company during the backlash it received, saying earlier this year:

“I understand that Nike has been really lately supporting women a lot, and they started with making a statement with me, and they said they want to make a change and want to support women that want to have families and want to be moms. I’m glad that statement was made, and I know that herefore and going forward, they’re doing better. And that’s what it’s about — learning from mistakes and doing better.”

Nike is still not completely out of the woods on this issue.

While there is seemingly no financial penalty for a period of 18 months due to pregnancy, it is not completely clear if suspensions for not competing over a 6 month period will still apply.

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