Soccer Star Alex Morgan Made Nike Agree to ‘Groundbreaking’ Maternity Protections

Despite a comparable level of skill and just as much box-office draw, women have struggled to maintain their financial foothold in the sports world for years. Fortunately, there’s a new generation of female athletes willing to fight for equality. One such star is soccer star Alex Morgan

Alex Morgan’s new addition

In 2019, Morgan, who was already an established name in women’s soccer, helped win the 2019 world cup alongside superstar Megan Rapinoe. Together, Morgan and Rapinoe are two of the most prodigious female athletes in the world. Morgan has played women’s US soccer for multiple teams, including the Western New York Flash and the Orlando Pride since her 2011 debut.

In 2012, she went to London Olympics where her brilliant performance netted the American team a silver medal and earned her a FIFA player of the year mention. Morgan’s World Cup win in 2019, which was nothing short of spectacular with six total goals and a Silver Boot award at tournament’s end, is her second greatest accomplishment, however.

On May 7, 2020, reports CNN, Morgan gave birth to her baby daughter, Charlie Elena Carrasco. Baby Charlie weighed eight pounds, five ounces at birth. Morgan took to Instagram to welcome her, saying, “Best day of my life.” However, looming career considerations still hung over her head. 

Nike’s less-than-perfect maternity policies

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Winning a World Cup and becoming a soccer star comes with a lot of perks, including lucrative endorsement deals. Nike and Coca Cola are among Morgan’s most prominent corporate contracts. She has her own line of Nike-branded jerseys and cleats, and her likeness can be seen in all kinds of promotional material for women’s soccer worldwide. 

Working with Nike can make you wealthy. It can also be a struggle. Recently, Nike came under fire for its less-than-stellar practices regarding endorsements and maternity, reports Business Insider. In 2019, several famous female athletes, including Olympic track runners Allyson Felix, Alysia Montano, and Kara Goucher, penned a scathing op-ed to the New York Times roasting Nike’s attitude toward athletes and maternity leave. 

Becoming pregnant in the middle of an endorsement deal has been historically considered a career ender by many female athletes. Nike is notorious for using pregnancy as a way to back out of providing guaranteed pay to its female athletes. 

Prior to Morgan, Serena Williams was one of the first female athletes to receive guaranteed payment during her pregnancy and ensuing maternity leave. But even as recently as 2019, it wasn’t a standard practice. Morgan, ever the fierce competitor, was more than willing to push back on that. 

Morgan negotiates with Nike

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She’s still got it

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Morgan has no problem breaking records on the field. Her competitive nature served her well during her contract renegotiation. Morgan’s contract with Nike is unlike any other female athlete’s. As of this writing, the soccer star is still enjoying time with her newborn daughter. She negotiated aggressive protections into her deal with the sportswear giant.

The centerpiece of the deal is a guaranteed 18 months of pay regardless of whether she can play. While it may be a one-of-a-kind contract, Morgan’s self-advocacy is a step in the right direction. Hopefully Nike and other major corporations toe the line going forward.