When Allyson Felix spoke up and demanded that Nike put in place a structure to ensure that female Nike athletes were not penalized for pregnancy, she claims she was admonished to “know her place” by the corporation.
She’s been a Nike athlete for years, and she’s been spotted wearing their emblem on her racing tops and shorts in promos. She spoke out in 2018 about a life-threatening childbirth that nearly took her and her daughter, Camryn’s lives. Felix had to have an emergency C-section in order to give birth to her child.
She proposed to restructure her contract with Nike for maternal protection while recovering from her C-section, ensuring that she would not be penalized if she didn’t perform well in her first week back.
Felix stated in the New York Times, “I felt pressure to return to form as soon as possible following the birth of my daughter in November 2018, even though I eventually had to undergo an emergency C-section at 32 weeks due to severe pre-eclampsia that threatened the lives of both me and my kid.”
Nike, on the other hand, turned down her offer and offered Felix a 70% pay cut. Felix terminated relations with Nike in 2019 after being dissatisfied with the deal and also broke her non-disclosure agreement to reveal her experience.
“I was confronted with a gender unfairness that I couldn’t avoid. My workplace did not support my maternity leave or the maternity leave of a colleague in a way that I could be proud of. I was instructed to be aware of my surroundings… Instead, I raised my voice. I utilized my platform to advocate for female athletes’ maternal rights. “No woman should have to choose between working and raising a family,” Felix wrote.
“What I’m not willing to tolerate is the current maternal status quo…,” Felix said. “I wanted to establish a new benchmark. Who could secure these protections if I, one of Nike’s most well-known athletes, couldn’t?”
Since then, Allyson has gone on to start her own athletic footwear line, Saysh. Anyone who purchases a pair of Saysh Collective shoes will earn a lifetime membership in the Saysh Collective.
Felix, 36, is regarded as one of the most successful track athletes in American history, having won six Olympic gold medals and 11 world titles.
All of the women who worked on her company’s initial sneaker were former Nike employees. Felix teamed up with her brother and business partner Wes, as well as Darren Breedveld, another founder. To get things started, they pooled their resources and raised $3 million in initial money.
When she qualified for the Tokyo Olympics this year, the Olympian wore a pair of Saysh spikes. For the Tokyo games, she will also wear the Saysh brand.
Felix is developing her own ecosystem and constructing a brand for women with Saysh in order to avoid some of the ordeals she faced while working with Nike.