Nike is adding contractual protection for female athletes who get pregnant after facing negative publicity for not doing so in the past.
On Sunday, The New York Times ran an opinion piece from Lindsay Crouse and video by 33-year-old distance runner Alysia Montaño that pointed out the lack of fairness and support from sponsors towards female athletes who get pregnant. Montaño says when she told Nike she was pregnant, they told her they were going to pause her contract. Crouse pointed out the hypocrisy from Nike, which has created advertising campaigns in which they claim to support and empower female athletes, encouraging them to dream big.
Nike apparently took note of the criticism and has enacted a change.
The Wall Street Journal’s Khadeeja Safdar reported on Friday that Nike has now added language to their contracts that will protect female athletes’ pay during pregnancy.
“We recognize we can do more and that there is an important opportunity for the sports industry to evolve to support female athletes,” the company said.
Nike says they adopted the policy last year but just started writing them into their contracts. Their previous contracts allowed them to pause contracts or reduce pay “for any reason.”
Previously, athletes were not able to speak about these issues due to non-disclosure agreements or fears of retribution. Nike goes to great distances to protect the brand and its athletes for fear of negative publicity, so their quick action and response is not surprising.
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Michael Avenatti has kicked his Nike accusations into high gear.
Avenatti, an attorney known for representing Stormy Daniels in her case against Donald Trump, is being accused of attempting to extort Nike. He allegedly threatened to go public with accusations against Nike if they did not pay him.
Avenatti has decided to go public in the last 24 hours with his accusations anyway.
On Friday night, Avenatti accused Nike exec Carlton DeBose of bribing high schoolers so that they would attend Nike-sponsored colleges. He later accused Nike of making payments to Zion Williamson’s mother Sharonda Sampson for bogus “consulting services”, which he says were bribes.
.@DukeMBB – About this denial by Coach K the other day relating to payments by Nike…Can you please ask Zion Williamson’s mother – Sharonda Sampson – whether she was paid by @nike for bogus “consulting services” in 2016/17 as part of a Nike bribe to get Zion to go to Duke? Thx.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 6, 2019
Williamson ended up choosing to attend Duke for college. The Blue Devils have been sponsored by Nike since 1992, and Coach K has extremely strong ties to the brand. He has previously denied any wrongdoing in a scandal involving improper payments that has rocked the college basketball world.
Duke says they are aware of the allegations and are investigating matters.
“We are aware of the allegation and, as we would with any compliance matter, are looking into it. Duke is fully committed to compliance with all NCAA rules and regulations,” Duke AD Kevin White wrote in a statement to The Chronicle. “Every student athlete at Duke is reviewed to ensure their eligibility. With regard to men’s basketball: all recruits and their families are thoroughly vetted by Duke in collaboration with the NCAA through the Eligibility Center’s amateurism certification process.”
Nike says they will not respond to Avenatti’s claims.
“Nike will not respond to the allegations of an individual facing federal charges of fraud and extortion and aid in his disgraceful attempts to distract from the athletes on the court at the height of the tournament. Nike will continue its cooperation with the government’s investigation into grassroots basketball and the related extortion case,” the apparel company said in a statement via Dan Wetzel.
Avenatti continues to assert that Nike is guilty.
“Nike is guilty of rampant criminal conduct in bribing players for years and has been striving for weeks now to distract away from their bribery and fraud perpetrated at the highest levels. They knew they could not keep it secret any longer so they lied to the government and enlisted them in their scheme. If I’m lying about what Nike has done, why don’t they deny the bribery? They are guilty as hell.”
In case you are unfamiliar with how these bribery schemes work, sneaker companies have a lot to gain in sales through brand exposure. They sponsor college programs as part of their marketing, and being linked to star athletes and winning programs helps their brand and sales. Some companies believe that if they can bribe top high school athletes to play for college programs they sponsor, they will have a lot to gain. They also are attempting to build relationships with these athletes in case they become stars in the pros. A star player like Zion is extremely attractive to these companies; fans will want to buy Williamson’s gear, which is why so many companies are competing to sign him as he enters the NBA.
One of the worst public relations nightmares in Nike’s history occurred during Wednesday night’s game between Duke and North Carolina, and the sports apparel juggernaut is working hard to remedy the situation.
Just over 30 seconds into the game, freshman superstar Zion Williamson was forced to exit with a knee injury after his shoe literally fell apart. Williamson is the best player in the country and is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, so the equipment malfunction could not have happened in a worse situation.
Zion's shoe: destroyed pic.twitter.com/LqQ2te0Jay
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 21, 2019
After UNC’s 88-72 win over the Blue Devils, Nike issued a statement about the broken shoe. A spokesperson wished Williamson a speedy recovery and said the manufacturer is working to identify the cause of the “isolated incident.”
Got this statement from a #Nike spokesman:
“We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery. The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance. While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue.”
— Des Bieler (@DesBieler) February 21, 2019
Isolated or not, the situation is a horrible look for Nike. Williamson is fortunate to have only suffered a knee sprain, though it is unclear how much time he will miss. The freshman has already been urged by some former NBA players to sit out to protect himself from injury, but no one envisioned his footwear being the issue.
As you might expect, Nike was ruthlessly mocked by the competition over the debacle.
Puma sent a tweet disparaging Nike after Zion Williamson suffered an injury while wearing their shoes, but they thought better of it.
Puma has ventured into the basketball market, signing players such as Deandre Ayton, DeMarcus Cousins and Marvin Bagley to try and take some market share away from Nike, the leader in the field. After Williamson’s Nike shoes blew out in the first minute of the Duke-North Carolina game on Wednesday, Puma took a shot at Nike, saying the issue wouldn’t have happened if he were wearing Pumas.
— Sleeper Athletes (@SleeperAth1etes) February 21, 2019
Puma later deleted the tweet, possibly after learning that Williamson was out for the game with a knee injury.
Before Puma sent the tweet, Terry Rozier, another Puma athlete, had made his recruiting pitch.
This type of tweet probably won’t earn Puma many more fans. Separately, they could benefit as the malfunction of the Nike shoes could lead some to question wearing the brand.
Nike’s worst nightmare occurred on Wednesday night.
In the first minute of the high-profile Duke-North Carolina game, Blue Devils star Zion Williamson exited with an injury after his shoe broke. Williamson was wearing the Nike PG 2.5 PE, and the shoe literally fell apart, resulting in a knee injury.
This is the biggest stage in college basketball and the biggest star in the sport, and to have the equipment fall apart and cause an injury could not have been a worse turn of events for the Swoosh. Instantly, people pounced.
Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier said Williamson/Duke should join Puma, a new brand in the basketball shoe market.
Come on over to puma
— Terry Rozier (@T_Rozzay3) February 21, 2019
Puma joined in as well before later deleting their tweet.
Wouldn’t have happened in the pumas
— PUMA Basketball (@PUMAHoops) February 21, 2019
Others on social media instantly knew what the injury and shoe failure meant for Nike and its competitors.
Nike right now…. pic.twitter.com/05aWBRRiJ8
— Damien Woody (@damienwoody) February 21, 2019
Adidas, Under Armour and Reebok after Zion fell out of his Nikespic.twitter.com/255WWmjsze
— Breyon (@bre_88) February 21, 2019
Nike stock may take a hit on the market tomorrow after Zion blowout!! #UNCvsDuke
— Mark A. Perdue (@markperdue65) February 21, 2019
Terrible look for Nike.
— Joe Person (@josephperson) February 21, 2019
We’re not about to say Nike’s stock price is going to fall on Thursday, but this really couldn’t be worse for them.
Williamson was soon ruled out for the rest of the game due to his knee, raising questions about his future at Duke, and whether he might actually follow Scottie Pippen’s advice.
As the backlash from Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick continues, one company in Colorado is so disgusted it is offering customers a rare opportunity to purchase discount apparel.
As KRDO NewsChannel 13 noted discovered, a sporting goods store called Prime Time Sports in Colorado Springs has hung a sign in its front window announcing that all Nike products are now 50 percent off. The sign reads “Still choosing to stand.”
YOUR THOUGHTS: Prime Time Sports in Chapel Hills Mall is selling all of its Nike products at half price in protest against the company's decision to use Colin Kaepernick in a new ad campaign.
What do you think of the move? https://t.co/627X8KzBwg
— KRDO NewsChannel 13 (@KRDONC13) September 5, 2018
Stephen Martin, who has owned Prime Time Sports for 21 years, says he understands how much profit he could lose because of the large inventory of Nike NFL jerseys the store sells. That didn’t stop him from sending a letter to Nike expressing frustration over the Kaepernick campaign and calling the sports apparel juggernaut the “mother of all harlots.”
“According to me, (Kaepernick) has sacrificed a salary,” a note in the window of Prime Time Sports reads. “Nothing compared to what every soul on our ‘Honor the Flag’ memorial wall that was built a few years ago has suffered and died for.”
The note, which was written by Martin, is surrounded by photos of fallen service members. Martin started the sale Tuesday and said he intends to permanently rid the store of all Nike products.
Nike knew having Kaepernick as the face of a campaign would draw strong reactions, though some numbers indicate the decision was a good one. Martin’s opinion is shared by many, but it doesn’t appear to be discouraging Nike at all.
Nike launched its new advertising campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick this week in advance of the start of the 2018 season, and the timing was hardly a coincidence.
The “Just Do It” ads featuring Kaepernick and other star athletes were only the start. As Darren Rovell revealed on Wednesday, an ad that is voiced over by Kaepernick is set to air during Thursday night’s game between the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles. Here’s the commercial:
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) September 5, 2018
Nike has received plenty of backlash for using Kaepernick to commemorate the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” slogan, but the sports apparel company obviously knew that was coming. Even if there have been strong negative reactions, the social media numbers tell the story.
Nike’s new campaign features star athletes like Serena Williams and Odell Beckham Jr. in addition to Kaepernick. It has also been endorsed by LeBron James, so there is plenty of support.