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Nike draws heat over skimpy U.S. women's track and field uniforms for Paris Olympics

Artistic swimming Olympian heads to Paris after scary pool incident
Artistic swimming Olympian heads to Paris after scary pool incident 03:49

Nike is defending its design of uniforms for the women's track and field team representing the U.S. at the Paris 2024 Olympics, which have spurred criticism from some female athletes and revived debate over sexism in sports. 

The outfits, which Nike unveiled at a special event in Paris and were first posted by digital media company Citius Mag, have a high-cut leg that that barely covers their display mannequin's groin area. The male version, by contrast, provides significantly more coverage. 

Commenting on Citius Mag's post, steeplechase competitor and Olympian Colleen Quigley wrote, "I mean I still wanna make the team but…." Paralympian Femita Ayanbeku, also a track and field competitor weighed in too, writing, "I'm someone's mom, I can't be exposing myself in such ways."

Added Paralympian and track and field athlete Jaleen Roberts, "This mannequin is standing still and everything's showing...imagine mid flight."

Other athletes chimed in saying the outfit would require a level of hyper-vigilance to make sure they didn't expose themselves, whereas they'd prefer to be focused on performance. 

Lauren Fleshman, the author of "Good For a Girl: A Woman Running in a Man's World," tore into the design in a post on Instagram. 

"Professional athletes should be able to compete without dedicating brain space to constant pube vigilance or the mental gymnastics of having every vulnerable piece of your body on display," she said.

"If this outfit was truly beneficial to physical performance, men would wear it," she added.

The Women's Sports Foundation, an advocacy group for female athletes, writes in a position paper that "athletes should be afforded maximum flexibility in the choice of uniform fabrics and styles." Appropriate uniform designs consider performance, medical and safety concerns, and diversity in body types and cultural norms.  

Nike defended the look, saying it had solicited input from Olympic athletes in designing its lineup of uniforms for both the men's and women's teams headed to Paris this summer. For the track and field kits, Nike Chief Innovation Officer John Hoke said in a statement that the company offers athletes "a range of silhouettes tailored for various sport disciplines, body types and sizes, prioritizing performance and maximum breathability." 

Paris 2024 Olympics - Nike Olympics Products Launch
Athing Mu of the U.S. poses during the unveiling of Nike's Olympic gear for the Paris 2024 Games, on April 11, 2024.  Stephanie Lecocq / REUTERS

Male and female track and field athletes have a dozen competition styles to chose from, Nike added, explaining that "athletes can choose outfits that match their style and personal preference without sacrificing comfort during the games in Paris." The company also said it will offer tailoring options.

USA Track and Field said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch that it has worked with Nike to ensure that competitors had uniform options. 

"USATF is also aware that Nike consulted with athletes throughout the design process to ensure that all athletes are comfortable and that the uniforms are well-suited for their respective events," the organization said, adding that the unitard that has drawn fire is just one option athletes can choose from. 

Nike also recently made waves for another uniform design. Its new Major League Baseball uniforms, which the company said is made from a "breathable, lightweight, high-performance fabric," are transparent enough that the jerseys' tags are visible when tucked into the pants' waistbands. And gray-colored uniforms, made from the same fabric, don't match the pants when they become soaked with sweat. 

Nike told The Athletic it is testing different fabrics to remedy the issue, but it's unclear if updated outfits will be issued this season. 

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