'No woman should ever have to choose between her career and her family, and our goal is to make accessible child care a standard provision for working moms.'
Allyson Felix is the most decorated female track and field athlete in Olympic history, earning 11 medals to date. Felix has been a strong advocate for professional athletes with children ever since she gave birth to her daughter, Camryn, in 2018. This week, Felix took a major leap in her advocacy by announcing an initiative to provide free child care to athletes, coaches and staff at the U.S. Track and Field championships. According to Good Morning America, the initiative comes in partnership with her sponsor Athleta and &Mother—a nonprofit co-founded by Felix's Team USA teammate and two-time world champion, Alysia Montaño (nicknamed "the pregnant runner" for competing at the U.S. Track and Field championships while eight months pregnant).
Athleta and Allyson Felix will pioneer the next chapter of advocating for women by providing free, accessible child care, in partnership with nonprofit organization &Mother, for select track & field events in 2022. More announcements to come. pic.twitter.com/EdiLeQ5DTF— Saysh (@BySaysh) June 21, 2022
Explaining her motivation behind offering free child care, Felix pointed out that the cost of child care is "one of the main obstacles" faced by athletes who are also moms. "Sports and athletics ultimately act as a microcosm for motherhood and careers within our larger society, as women are too often told they cannot be fierce competitors in their careers while still being a caregiver to their children," the 36-year-old said. "No woman should ever have to choose between her career and her family, and our goal is to make accessible child care a standard provision for working moms."
"My hope is that this free and accessible child care service in partnership with Athleta and &Mother will help raise awareness around the need for a better child care system—both in sports and beyond," Felix added. This week's US National Championships in Eugene, Oregon, will be Felix's final US outdoor national championships, as she announced in April that this track season will be her last. "I have given everything I have to running and for the first time, I'm not sure if I have anything left to give. I want to say goodbye and thank you to the sport and people who have helped shape me the only way I know how—with one last run," she wrote on Instagram. "This season I’m running for women. I’m running for a better future for my daughter. I’m running for you."
Speaking of her final races, Felix said she is running them with even more purpose. "I’m racing this season for a better future for women and girls, and the legacy we are building around supporting women on and off the track," she said. "When I think about the world that Cammy will grow up in, I don't want her—or any other woman or girl—to have to fight the battles that I fought." Felix also partnered with Athleta and the Women's Sports Foundation last year to provide professional mom-athletes grants to cover child-care expenses as they train and compete.
So far, WSF and Athleta have awarded more than $200,000 in those grants, reported NPR, and have also opened a third round of child care grants, providing $10,000 for child care expenses to female athletes traveling to competitions. "The Child Care Grants from Athleta and Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) grants are a game-changer for these women," said Felix. "Not all professional athletes are fortunate to have a sponsor or any financial support, so the grants have allowed them to train and travel with less stress or barriers. We've supported 23 athletes so far, and I look forward to seeing how many more we can help with this year’s grant cycle."
Allyson Felix, the most decorated female track and field Olympian, is launching an initiative to provide free childcare for athletes https://t.co/wAtasNRPjT— TIME (@TIME) June 21, 2022
Speaking of their latest initiative, Kyle Andrew—Athleta's chief brand officer—said the company hopes to continue Felix's mission to "bring meaningful change for women and girls" by partnering with her again. "Athleta's purpose is to break down barriers to help women take care of themselves and each other," Andrew said in a statement. "Our latest effort to support mom athletes with child care allows them to flourish in their professional careers while prioritizing their wellbeing and removing a barrier so prevalent in sports. No woman should have to choose between her career and her family."
Allyson Felix is the most decorated U.S. track and field athlete in history. As she wraps up her last season, she's focusing on supporting other athlete moms.https://t.co/BqRAwGLC4w— NPR (@NPR) June 22, 2022
Felix began publicly advocating for mothers—especially Black mothers, who experience disproportionately high rates of maternal death and poorer quality of care—after a complicated pregnancy. She was diagnosed with severe pre-eclampsia, a potentially life-threatening condition, when she was 32 weeks pregnant and had to have an emergency C-section. Her daughter spent the first month of her life in a neonatal intensive care unit. "In track and field, the culture around pregnancy was silence. Athletes would either hide pregnancies to secure new contracts, or their contracts were in place were put on hold almost like they had an injury," Felix said.
One year after giving birth, Felix made waves when she spoke out against her former sponsor Nike in an op-ed for The New York Times, after the company refused to pay her while she was on maternity leave. "I felt like I was being used in multiple marketing campaigns to tell women and girls that they could do anything when internally I was having such a hardship," she explained. "What I was asking for was when a woman has a baby to have time to recover to be able to get back to that top form. And essentially, they told me that I could have time but they weren't ready to give all female athletes the time and they weren't willing to tie anything to pregnancy in the contract. And so, for me, that was a real issue and a sticking point." Not long after, Nike said it would change its pregnancy policy and do more to protect female athletes' pay during and after pregnancy.