Allyson Felix, an American track runner and field sprinter, recently earned her 12th Gold Medal at the World Athletics Championship in Qatar –– she also surpassed the legendary Usain Bolt in winning the most olympic gold medals in history. She welcomed her daughter 10 months ago, and this will be her first win since giving birth. Nike sponsored Felix for seven years, but the relationship ended due to their mistreatment of pregnant athletes. The track star is now the face of Athleta, its first ever sponsored athlete.
Felix gave birth two months earlier than expected, had to undergo an emergency C-section and experienced life-threatening pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is marked by high blood pressure in women during pregnancy in women who have not had high blood pressure before. Other women like Beyonce, Serena Williams and Mariah Carey have also experienced preeclampsia during pregnancy.
Her accomplishments deserve to be celebrated. However, there is much needed discussion around how, and most importantly if, these brands are truly in support of their ambassadors. Felix shared her Nike pregnancy story as well as two other athletes, Alysia Montano and Kara Goucher, who broke their non-disclosure agreements in order to reclaim their autonomy back in May. There was a lack of support, and no secure maternity protections for any of these women, and therefore they were silenced.
Women are able to hold more than one identify regardless if they were considered to be an athlete first. Female athletes train hard, have sleepless nights, do not get to spend time with their loved ones and have to constantly prove themselves as skilled in their sport compared to men. There should be no conditions about one’s personal life, like wanting to start a family, that may jeopardize their career. Women are allowed to do what they feel makes their life worthwhile, without facing scrutiny from a support system that is supposed to have their best interest in mind, and this should go for society, as well.
Felix said she now she runs for her daughter, for younger girls, and for single mothers. Her daughter gave her motivation when she was unsure about being able to run again. I am grateful to Felix for sharing her Nike story and being loud and proud about being an athlete, mother, and activist. There is no order that those words have to be in for any woman that plays a sport or for any mother to be considered less of an athlete or less of a mother. And there is no need for an explanation to anyone about the order in which one lives their life.