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An Olympian Just Slammed Nike for "Disrespectful" Ad Campaign

The athlete said the company was "tone-deaf" in their request.

Nike works with some of the biggest names in sports, from Tiger Woods to Serena Williams to LeBron James. But despite having signed some of the greatest athletes in the world, the company has also been embroiled in its fair share of controversies over the years. Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles recently announced she was ending her partnership with Nike, seemingly suggesting that the brand wasn't as supportive of her as they should have been. And now, another female Olympian is calling out the company. Read on to find out why Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix is slamming Nike for asking her to participate in one ad campaign.

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Allyson Felix said Nike asked her to be in a female-empowerment campaign.

Minsk, Belarus - September 9, 2019 : Athletic match Europe v USA Minsk 2019. Famous American runner Allyson Felix
Andrew Makedonski /

Felix recently opened up about her work with Nike in a July 8 Time magazine profile. She told the magazine that her "stomach dropped" when she was asked to participate in a female-empowerment ad for the company in 2018. According to Felix, she was asked while in the middle of negotiating maternity protections with Nike, since she was pregnant when her contract expired in Dec. 2017. During these negotiations, Felix said Nike declined to add contract language that indicated the company would add maternity protections for athletes.

Felix said being asked to participate in the ad campaign after that was "just beyond disrespectful and tone-deaf."

This is not the first time Felix has called out Nike.

Minsk, Belarus - September 9, 2019 : Athletic match Europe v USA Minsk 2019. Famous American runner Allyson Felix(in the centre)
Andrew Makedonski /

In 2019, Felix wrote an op-ed for The New York Times, detailing her experience with the brand and discussing how she felt they were unsupportive of pregnant women and new mothers. "If we have children, we risk pay cuts from our sponsors during pregnancy and afterward. It's one example of a sports industry where the rules are still mostly made for and by men," Felix wrote at the time. According to the athlete, Nike offered to pay her 70 percent less than before once she had gotten pregnant.

"Ironically, one of the deciding factors for me in signing with Nike nearly a decade ago was what I thought were Nike's core principles," she wrote. "I could have signed elsewhere for more money."

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Nike announced a new maternity policy for pregnant athletes in 2019.

Nike logo brend sign on city street. Signboard of Nike logo on store, shop, mall, boutique. Kiev, Ukraine - September 02, 2019.

After Felix's NYT op-ed, which resulted in public outcry and a congressional inquiry, Nike revamped its policies. The company announced a new maternity policy for all sponsored athletes on Aug. 12, 2019. According to The Washington Post, the policy created a new guarantee that pregnant athletes' pay and bonuses cannot be cut over an 18-month period that covers eight months before the athlete's due date and 10 months after. The company's previous policy only extended this for 12 months.

"We regularly have conversations with our athletes regarding the many initiatives we run around the world," Nike told Time in 2021. "We have learned and grown in how to best support our female athletes."

Both Felix and Simone Biles left Nike to work with Athleta.

Los Angeles/USA- 02.02.2020 : Athleta women sport wear shoes clothes on third street promenade santa monica

In 2019, Felix left Nike and signed with Athleta, a women-focused apparel company. This is the same company Biles recently left Nike to work with. "I felt like it wasn't just about my achievements, it's what I stood for and how they were going to help me use my voice and also be a voice for females and kids," Biles told The Wall Street Journal when asked about making the move to Athleta. "I feel like they also support me, not just as an athlete, but just as an individual outside of the gym and the change that I want to create, which is so refreshing."

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Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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