After receiving widespread criticism for its policy towards pregnant athletes and new mothers, Nike has decided to waive performance-pay reductions for 18 months for women athletes who decide to have a baby.

In a letter shared by six-time Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix on social media, Nike clarified they would not apply any performance-related reduction for 18 months if an athlete becomes pregnant.

The announcement came after Felix inked a sponsorship deal with US leisure-wear brand Athleta following her split with Nike.

Felix had spoken out after US team-mates Alysia Montano and Kara Goucher levelled similar allegations against Nike.

The 33-year-old revealed in May she had been offered a vastly reduced contract by Nike after taking a break from the sport in 2018 during her pregnancy.

After failing to agree terms on an extension to her Nike deal, Felix had even competed without a sponsor during the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in July.

“They told stories we athletes know are true, but have been too scared to tell publicly: If we have children, we risk pay cuts from our sponsors during pregnancy and afterward. It’s one example of a sports industry where the rules are still mostly made for and by men,” Felix wrote for the New York Times.

“This isn’t just about pregnancy. We may stand behind the brands we endorse, but we also need to hold them accountable when they are marketing us to appeal to the next generation of athletes and consumers,” she wrote.

“Pregnancy is not messing up,” she added.

“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.”

(with AFP inputs)