Six-time Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix has made it her mission to help other mom-athletes like herself and support them financially.
Allyson Felix is a six-time Olympic gold medalist and holds 11 world championship titles. But when the professional athlete gave birth to her daughter in 2018, her sponsor, Nike, decided to cut her pay by 70%. Even though pay cuts were a well-known practice, athletes who became mothers were scared to talk about it publicly. But as one of Nike’s most widely marketed athletes, Felix decided to use her voice to hold Nike accountable for what was clearly a discriminatory policy. In a tell-all op-ed for The New York Times, she revealed the regressive policy and after the hue and cry that followed, Nike changed its maternity policy.
Felix, 35, is using her voice to help other women who chose to be both athletes and mothers. She has now announced that along with her sponsor, Gap’s Athleta, and Women’s Sports Foundation, a $200,000 grant is being given to professional athletes with the aim of covering childcare costs. “It’s really hard to balance being a mom and a professional athlete, and the reality is that there’s a certain level of financial support and security that’s necessary to be able to do it,” Felix told CNBC. Nine athletes have already been chosen, six of whom are headed to Tokyo including Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry and Olympic saber fencer Mariel Zagunis.
Allyson Felix and Athleta have announced the Power of She Fund, grants that will help cover child care costs for athlete moms.— Front Office Sports (@FOS) July 8, 2021
The first-of-its-kind program is committing $200,000 to the cause.
The first 6 recipients, headed to Tokyo, will each receive $10,000. pic.twitter.com/7Si8kXl22t
Each of the chosen athletes will receive $10,000 as childcare support. "It was important to me and to Athleta that our partnership reflects that I am more than just an athlete. In fact, part of my contract includes provisions for my daughter, Camryn, to join me whenever I am competing," Felix said in a release as per USA Today. "But not everyone has access to this type of support from a partner or sponsor. These grants are about showing the industry that all mom-athletes need this same comprehensive support to be able to participate in their athletic endeavors."
“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 stated. The nine athletes chosen will also participate in roundtable discussions on how to create a systemic change when it comes to supporting mothers who are competing. By speaking up against the discriminatory policy Felix not only managed to get Nike to change their maternity policy but brands like Burton, Altra, Nuun, and Brooks also followed suit and announced new contractual guarantees for women who have children while being supported by their sponsorships.
"Athletes are told to shut up and play," she wrote in the 2019 op-ed. "We are told that no one cares about our politics. We are told that we’re just entertainers, so run fast, jump high, and throw far. And don’t mess up. But pregnancy is not messing up; for women, it can and should be able to be part of a thriving professional athletic career, as my teammates have shown and I hope to show too. And I dream of a day when we don’t have to fight in order to try."
Lora Webster, a 34-year-old Paralympic volleyball player and mother of three, is also among the recipients of the grant. Speaking to Fast Company she said, “I’m floored that she has made this a priority. It sends the message to all female athletes that we don’t have to choose between motherhood and our sport. We can do both.” She plans to use the funds as she heads to Tokyo and as someone who always tried to separate her life as an athlete from that as a mother, Webster said that the grant means a lot.