Alysia Montaño Boosts Her Support to Keep Women Athletes from Losing Health Insurance and Income

Just last May, Olympic runner Alysia Montaño had criticized Nike’s maternity leave policy. She had noticed the U.S. Olympic Committee strips women athletes of their health insurance coverage if they are not at the top of the game during pregnancy. It’s okay for the sports industry to push a woman out of the prime when she decides to have a baby while men can have a full career. There isn’t a policy in place to protect women athletes so they can receive the health coverage and support they need during pregnancy.

The runner had championed maternity leave legislation to protect women athletes from losing health coverage during pregnancy. Unfortunately, the confidentiality clauses implemented by athletic companies prevent these women from speaking out.

Currently, female athletes receive only four percent of sports coverage in the media. Alysia Montaño’s goal is to change that and to encourage women, notwithstanding their background and whether they are athletes or not, to succeed in their careers.

Montaño won two bronze medals back in 2011 and 2013 in world championships. She is probably the best known for racing 800 meters in the USATF Outdoor Championships – being 8 months pregnant and wearing a yellow flower in her hair. She launched Keeping Track to help female athletes together with Roisin McGettigan and long-distance runner Molly Huddle.

In her podcast, she shares stories of inspiring female athletes and talks about topics in women’s sports, including racing while pregnant, postpartum, and when it’s a good time to tell your sponsor you are pregnant.

Montaño says that pregnancy isn’t an injury and it should not be treated as such. Her story is an inspiration for other women athletes out there, and all women attempting to succeed in a misinformed society.  After speaking out, Montaño was afraid Nike would sue her and she will never be sponsored again. Nevertheless, she felt her story needed to be shared as it will help knock down walls that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

After her first pregnancy – right after giving birth, she had continued her training as usual since her income was based on her performance. When asking Nike what would happen to her if she were to become pregnant, they replied that they would pause her contract and she will get paid only after she resumed running. Asics had also cut her paid in 2014 when she had her daughter. She raced 34 weeks pregnant and went back to training shortly after giving birth even though she had ab separation caused by the pregnancy. She won the national championship at 6 months postpartum and competed in the world championships in Beijing a week after her daughter’s 1st birthday. But she never talked in public about the financial pressures she was facing all along her career.   

Finally, she decided to speak out about her struggles and launched her own campaign with the #DreamMaternity social media hashtag – a movement that inspires women to succeed as mothers, employees, and athletes. Nike just updated its maternity policy last summer and other companies such as New Balance, Under Armour, Asics, and Burton did the same. She has recently partnered with brands that help her pursue her advocacy efforts.

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