Olympian Allyson Felix on Saying No & What It Took for Her to Call Out Nike for Denying Maternity Protections

Track and field superstar Allyson Felix, 36, knew there would be ramifications when she wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in May 2019, outing her former sponsor Nike for refusing to add maternity protections in her contract renewal. And it took a lot to speak out, she says in a recent interview with SheKnows.

“It was a really challenging experience for me. And [it was] just a really hard period of my life. I had to really come to a place where I was willing to take on the consequences and to speak publicly about what was happening, not for my benefit, but for the other women who were going to come after me, and hopefully, they would have a different experience,” says the Olympian, who has won eleven Olympic medals, seven gold, two silver, and one bronze. 

And while Felix’s brave move to go public with her contract negotiations ultimately helped change Nike’s maternity policies, she hopes to more widely send the message that Black and Brown women can and should say no to prioritize their health. “Young people need to know that it’s not necessarily about winning at all costs — to make sure that we are healthy,” she says. “As women of color, we take on a lot.”

And that’s why she is partnering with Pure Leaf Iced Tea and the nonprofit SeekHer Foundation to launch a program called No Grants to provide women with $1,406 to cover expenses when they say no to work to prioritize health and childcare. Applicants can apply during three periods this year: March-May, June-August, and September-November.

“I’m really at a place where there has to be meaning and purpose,” says the athlete. Watch the video above for the full interview.

Click here to apply for a grant.

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