The Nike Swoosh.
Every child knows it. Every adult knows it. And, every athlete who has ever dreamt of being elite, being a competitor —knows it well.
It’s iconic; a symbol of ferocity, passion, excellence, grit, finesse, determination, equality… or at least, that’s what we’ve been led to believe…
I grew up living and breathing the “just do it” mentality. I still sport Nike cleats on the pitch because Nike inspired the possibility that “anything was possible.” If you prepare with the right motivation, mindset, and work ethic, you CAN “have it all”—regardless of who you are, where you come from, or what you look like.
Nike promoted a level playing field.
Thus, the recent New York Times article, “Nike Told Me to Dream Big, Until I Wanted a Baby” struck a deep, frustrating, and saddening cord.
When it comes to gender equality, to women’s rights—to being a mom— the barriers seem to multiply, endlessly. Even in sport- a supposed “level playing field.”
So, the question becomes, how do we respond?
Alysia Montaño responded with courage and inspiration: Maternity Leave for Athletes, Just Do it – a must video clip watch.
Montaño proves that you can be a mother and an Olympian. She preserved even in the face of intense backlash from Nike corporate: broken financial contracts and physical danger from being forced to rush back to competing prematurely after childbirth.
“According to a 2019 Nike track and field contract shared with The Times, Nike can still reduce an athlete’s pay “for any reason” if the athlete doesn’t meet a specific performance threshold, for example a top five world ranking. There are no exceptions for childbirth, pregnancy or maternity.” –New York Times, 2019
In the clip, Montaño’s message is clear and powerful. We females must do more to fight back against the systems, corporations, and societal norms that are holding us back. Motherhood is not an “injury” and it’s far from “slacking off.”
Gender bias is pervasive. Women in all occupations, geographical locations, cultures and ethnicities face bias in some form. Whether it’s being paid less, being passed over for promotions, being silenced, being criticized as too “nurturing” or “aggressive”… or facing discrimination on the running track.
So, there’s no better time than now to fight gender bias. Inspired by Montaño’s message, it’s time to take risks, voice concerns, and challenge back. Alysia Montaño put her career on the line to protect future female athletes and their dreams of motherhood… and so must we.
The only thing Nike got right is the phrase, “just do it.”
#DreamMaternity— just do it.