Olympian Allyson Felix says Nike was 'beyond disrespectful' when asking her to be in female-empowerment ads while privately disputing maternity protections

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Allyson Felix smiles and holds her young daughter in her arms while standing inside of a stadium
  • Felix says Nike asked her to be in a female-empowerment ad as she negotiated maternity protections.

  • She told Time in a new profile that her "stomach dropped" when the company made the request.

  • She told Time that she believes Nike thought she was going to speak out against the brand.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix said her "stomach dropped" when she was asked to participate in a female-empowerment ad for Nike while negotiating maternity protections with the company.

"I was like, this is just beyond disrespectful and tone-deaf," she told Time magazine in a profile published Thursday.

Allyson Felix sprints with a baton in hand and bib numbers with her last name and the number 6
Allyson Felix runs a 4x400 relay postpartum at the world championships in 2019. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Felix has long accused Nike of being unsupportive of pregnant women and new mothers and detailed her experience with the company in a 2019 op-ed for The New York Times.

Her contract with Nike expired in December 2017, and she was pregnant as she negotiated a new deal with the brand. She said Nike offered her a 70% pay cut in the new contract and failed to explicitly support maternity protections she requested in the contract.

Video: This sports bra makes it easier for moms to nurse

Felix ultimately left Nike and signed with Athleta, a women-focused apparel company, instead. She's also started her own shoe and lifestyle brand called Saysh.

"Nike sometimes, they feel like you don't have another option," she told Time. "So they can get away with stuff like that because, where are you going to go? And I think that's how I was always perceived: 'She's never going to say anything. She's never going to speak out.'"

Allyson Felix smiles while holding her daughter in her arms with crowds in the background
Allyson Felix and her daughter, Camryn Ferguson. AP Photo/Ashley Landis

Nike has since expanded its payment protections for pregnant women and new mothers, the company told Time.

"We regularly have conversations with our athletes regarding the many initiatives we run around the world," Nike said. "Nike has supported thousands of female athletes for decades. We have learned and grown in how to best support our female athletes."

Allyson Felix is handed her daughter, Camryn, from the stands after completing the 400-meter dash.
Allyson Felix holds her daughter, Camryn, after running the women's 400-meter-dash final at the US championships in July 2019. AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File

Felix has found great success on the track upon returning to competition after the traumatic, life-threatening birth of her now-2-year-old daughter, Camryn. She broke Usain Bolt's gold-medal record at the World Athletics Championships 10 months after going under the knife for an emergency C-section, proving to the world - and her former shoe sponsor - that motherhood isn't the "kiss of death" for athletes.

And after finishing second in the 400-meter sprint at US Olympic trials in June, Felix is set to race at her fifth Olympic Games in just a few weeks. She already has nine Olympic medals to her name, but adding a 10th would be the perfect send-off to her illustrious USA Track & Field career.

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