In July of 2019, Allyson Felix and her mixed-gender 4×100 relay team won gold. This was Felix’s 12th gold medal at the track and field championship, making her break the record for most gold medals won at the track and field world championships. Usain Bolt held this record before this, with 11 gold medals. This was a huge accomplish for Felix, as she had just given birth ten months prior. Felix had explained that it was difficult to keep her image as a world class athlete while going through pregnancy, especially when dealing with her daughters health problems at the NICU.
This sparked Felix to speak up about and against her sponsor Nike and their maternity right for allegedly punishing sponsored female athletes by not guaranteeing their salary during pregnancy and after giving birth. This is very discouraging for female athletes as they are already getting paid less compared to male athletes. Felix was in constant negotiation with Nike while trying to handle life as a new mom. Nike wanted to pay Felix 70% less than what she was originally getting. This pay inequality, especially after a female athlete gives birth, is not a new topic in our society and there needs to be a change. Felix had asked Nike a guarantee not to be ‘punished’ if she did not perform her best months after childbirth, and they declined. Felix says: “I think everything I went through this year … it just brings it all back that it’s so much bigger than myself.”
After speaking up, Nike did state they would change and support female athletes during and after pregnancy. Felix had received lots of support from other women and female athletes who had gone through the same thing. Felix went on and is now happily the first sponsored athlete for Athleta. Felix represented female athletes well by speaking up about these issues. Women in sport tend to be overlooked and not taken as seriously, therefore hopefully more sponsors are encouraged to see women in sport equal to men and change their maternity rights.