During her final Olympic Games in Tokyo 2021, Allyson Felix acquired the title of the most decorated track and field athlete in the sport’s history. Not only is she the oldest woman from the United States to ever win gold on an Olympic track, but she did so as a new mother. Felix’s role as a mother is now an essential part of her life; however, her previous athletic sponsor viewed this shift in a contrasting light.
For years, until her pregnancy, Allyson Felix had been one of Nike’s most widely marketed and successful athletes. She holds more medals than any man or woman ever has in the history of U.S. track and field, yet upon discovering Felix was pregnant, the company prepared to cut her endorsements by nearly 70%.
Nike’s problematic maternity protections allowed for Felix, along with other female athletes, to speak out on the issue that the rules in most professional sports are designed for men. In an industry that has always been male-dominated, Allyson Felix’s story has been utterly influential for the improvement of women’s rights and representation in athletics altogether.
As a successful athlete, mother, and activist, Felix embodies many of the same traits and values as The Women’s Network. Her successes and push for action for women’s rights across multiple dimensions are inspirational and valuable to us all.
Felix used Nike’s poor maternity regulations as fuel to further her success even more. Felix terminated her contract with Nike, broke her non-disclosure agreement by speaking out, and started her own shoe brand. Felix launched “Saysh” alongside her brother and two former female Nike designers, where she created her own pair of sprinting spikes that she wore in Tokyo in 2021.
In the aftermath of Allyson Felix and other female athletes speaking up, Nike did make some changes to their maternity policy. As of 2019, Nike athletes will receive no performance-related pay reductions for 18 months beginning one month into the athlete's pregnancy.
The female gold medalist, mother, and now business owner, pushed through and knocked down the many barriers for women in the sports industry. Although Felix’s advocacy focused mainly on the athletic sector, her work reveals the fact that maternal protections should be evaluated and prioritized in all sectors.
After all, in the eyes of Allyson and many other professional women, starting a family should not be a death sentence for your career.
Above all, Allyson Felix’s activism for female athletes in dominating corporations is widespread and inspiring to women everywhere. Felix is a shining example that women are to be taken seriously and that standing up for women’s rights as a collective is exceptionally impactful. Because of Allyson’s story and successes, a new generation of young women will be motivated to be ambitious and embrace the power in their voices.