(Reuters) – British distance runner Jo Pavey has become the latest female athlete to complain that Nike halted her sponsorship payments when she was pregnant, Sky News reported on Thursday.
The five-time Olympian said the athletic apparel company froze her payments when she revealed that she was expecting her first child Jacob, who was born in 2009.
“When I announced I was pregnant my contract was immediately paused,” Pavey, who won 10,000 metres bronze at the 2007 world championships, told Sky.
“One of the main problems is the target to get the contract back and the timescale,” she said.
“It was the joy of running that kept me going because you think, ‘What will be will be’ and I was focused on being a mum. But you don’t want to feel punished for being pregnant.”
Pavey’s comments come after American middle distance runner Alysia Montano made similar claims in a video on the New York Times website earlier this week.
“I was sponsored by Nike and when I told them I wanted to have a baby during my career, they said, ‘Simple, we’ll just pause your contract and stop paying you,’” said Montano, who famously competed while eight months’ pregnant in 2014.
“How about when you tell my daughter she can achieve anything, you back it up?”
Nike frequently promotes gender and racial equality in its advertising campaigns.
In a statement to Reuters, Nike said it had changed its policy last year on sponsorship so that no female athletes would be “penalized financially for pregnancy.”
“Nike is proud to sponsor thousands of female athletes,” a Nike spokesman said in an emailed statement.
“As is common practice in our industry, our agreements do include performance-based payment reductions. Historically, a few female athletes had performance based reductions applied.”
(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Ian Ransom)