Nike "not backing up what they are preaching," Olympian Alysia Montaño says


Olympic runner Alysia Montaño is calling out the sports industry and sponsors like Nike for allegedly discriminating against pregnant athletes and not marrying advertising to reality. In a New York Times op-ed, she referenced a Nike ad urging young women to "dream with us."

"The greatest disconnect is that they are not backing up what they are preaching, you know. They are making this very grand gesture when they make these ads that are moving. 'Just do it' is their slogan, but ultimately, behind closed doors, everything that is a dream for women in particular is something that they are basically stuffing you down and saying actually, that's not really for you, this is for TV," Montaño said Wednesday on "CBS This Morning."

The seven-time USA champion said when she told her sponsor, Nike, she wanted to have a baby during her career, the company responded: "We'll just pause your contract and stop paying you."

In response, Nike said in statement: "Historically, a few female athletes had performance-based reductions applied. We recognized that there was inconsistency in our approach across different sports and in 2018 we standardized our approach across all sports so that no female athlete is penalized financially for pregnancy."

But that's not enough for Montaño.

"They basically make their response so verbose that it evades the problem. What do you mean? Your standard approach is standard for men. I want to see not just Nike — the sports industry — implement practices in place that specifically protect female athletes, and that includes clauses for maternity and pregnancy that explicitly say you are protecting this class," she said.  

Montaño said her op-ed was not a "Nike hit ad."

"This is an ad that is bringing to light our issues that we are facing in the sports industry that is ultimately discriminating against female athletes across the board. Nike is the industry leader, and they are the ones where other companies, who are looking to compete against Nike, are placing their standards off of our industry leaders," she said.

In addition to her accolades, Montaño is famous for competing in a 2014 U.S. Championships race while eight months pregnant with her first child. She stressed that exercising while pregnant is "healthy for the mom and the baby as long as you're having an uncomplicated pregnancy."

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A pregnant Alysia Montaño runs in the opening round of the women's 800 meter at the USATF Outdoor Championships at Hornet Stadium on June 26, 2014 in Sacramento, California.  Ezra Shaw, Getty Images

Montaño also described how women could lose their health insurance with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) due to a "tier system" that is "performance based."

But Montaño won national championships at six- and 10-months postpartum. She even qualified for the world championships in Beijing thereafter. "I flew to Beijing, China, pumped and shipped my milk back to the United States," Montaño recounted.

Montaño, who currently does not have a sponsor, said she would "absolutely" like to have one. "I'd love to move into a space where I can help elevate voices of people who are ultimately like myself," she said.

In a statement, a USOC spokesperson told CBS News: "Elite Athlete Health Insurance is a critically important aspect of the support we provide athletes and we're always working to understand how each athlete's individual circumstances might impact their eligibility. Pregnancy or needing a break from competition for other important reasons can't unfairly impact eligibility and we're working to make that clear to everyone."