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Sponsor Athleta sticks by Simone Biles after she withdraws from Olympic events

Simone Biles withdraws from individual all-around final
Simone Biles withdraws from individual all-around final 01:58

Simone Biles shocked the world when she pulled out of Olympic gymnastics events this week, citing mental health reasons. Biles has six Olympic medals — four of them gold — and her status as the G.O.A.T., or "greatest of all time," has earned her several sponsorship deals. While she will no longer be competing due to mental health reasons, her current sponsor, Athleta, is supporting her.

"We stand by Simone and support her well-being both in and out of competition," an Athleta spokesperson said in a statement. "Being the best also means knowing how to take care of yourself. We are inspired by her leadership today and are behind her every step of the way."

Following her withdrawal, Biles told reports she was "just dealing with a few things," according to "We have a couple more days. We're going to figure it out."

"Gymnastics isn't everything at the end of the day," Biles added. "There's still more to life than gymnastics so I'm not too, too worried about what happened."

Athleta, which is part of Gap Inc., partnered with Biles in April, saying they had a "shared vision designed to empower women and girls."

Biles is not the only athlete to recently pull out of a competition for mental health reasons — and receive support for doing so. When Naomi Osaka withdrew from the 2021 French Open in May, citing anxiety and depression, her sponsors supported her. 

"Our thoughts are with Naomi," Nike said in a statement, according to The Associated Press. "We support her and recognize her courage in sharing her own mental health experience." 

Sweetgreen also supported Osaka, tweeting that their partnership "is rooted in wellness in all its forms." Mastercard, another one of Osaka's partners, said her "decision reminds us all how important it is to prioritize personal health and well-being."

In the past, some athletes who stop competing haven't received the same respect. Several women runners accused Nike of pausing their contracts when they couldn't run – because they were pregnant. 

Runners including Alysia Montaño, Phoebe Wright and Allyson Felix, made similar accusations against the brand. In a New York Times op-ed, Felix alleged she "asked Nike to contractually guarantee" that she wouldn't be punished if she didn't perform well during her pregnancy. 

"Nike declined," Felix wrote. Nike quickly said it would waive performance-pay reductions for 12 months for athletes who have a baby, according to Reuters.

Athletes can also be dropped from partnerships for other reasons. Michael Phelps was dropped from his Kellogg partnership in 2009 after a photo surfaced showing him smoking marijuana. 

While marijuana is now legal in several state, runner Sha'Carri Richardson was suspended for one month after testing positive for the drug and was subsequently not chosen for the Olympic team. But soon after her Olympic dreams were crushed, she appeared in a Beats by Dre ad, wearing Nike. 

And in 2017, Nike decided to keep its sponsorship of golf pro Tiger Woods, after his arrest in Florida for driving under the influence.

When Biles, who had a previous partnership with Nike, signed an exclusive marketing deal with Athleta, she said using her voice "has been very empowering" and that she is "grateful to embark on this new journey with Athleta to inspire young girls and women to do the same." 

Several fellow athletes and celebrities have praised Biles for using her voice to advocate for her own mental health. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps said Biles' story "broke my heart" and that he hopes it will serve as a springboard for more public conversations that can destigmatize mental health and mental well-being.

Fellow Team USA gymnast Suni Lee wrote a message for Biles on Instagram. "Proud of you & everything you've accomplished! thank you for being a role model and someone i look up to every single day," Lee wrote. "You not only inspire me as a gymnast but as a person as well. your fearlessness and ability to do the impossible does not go unnoticed, we love you."

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