Donna Carpenter

Burton has jumped into the controversy surrounding sponsorships and pregnant female athletes.

Last week, the New York Times ran a story about how Olympic runners Alysia Montaño and Kara Goucher, both formerly sponsored by Nike, had their contracts reduced by the company during and immediately following their pregnancies. Nike has acknowledged that it had previously reduced some payments to female athletes unable to compete but the policy was amended last year to ensure no woman would be penalized for getting pregnant.

Burton said that effective May 15, all female athletes sponsored by the company will be formally protected during and after pregnancy and their contracts will be updated to reflect that. The contracts will now read: “Pregnancy will not be considered a medical condition; Burton will not reduce or suspend compensation for pregnancy/maternity reasons for 24 weeks; Burton will work with its pregnant athlete(s) to identify reasonable accommodations to athlete’s contractual obligations; Burton will not terminate a contract for pregnancy/maternity reasons, and Burton will reimburse for a companion air ticket for any appearance required of athlete during the time she is breastfeeding her child.”

In a blog posted on its web site on Thursday, Burton wrote: “We believe no one should be forced to choose between a career and a family. We support women who spend their lives pushing boundaries and we gladly stand by them.”

The Vermont-based activewear brand, championed by cofounder Donna Carpenter, has long endorsed women’s rights. In 2003, Carpenter established the Women’s Leadership Initiative as an internal effort to elevate women into leadership positions within the company and established progressive maternity and paternity policies.

Last year, it renewed the contract with pro-snowboarder Kimmy Fasani while she was pregnant, and their association continues today.

Other athletic brands, including Under Armour, New Balance and Asics, also continue to support their athletes while they’re pregnant.  

Nike too isaid s amending its contracts in light of the controversy. In a statement, the company said: “Nike has supported thousands of female athletes for decades. We have learned and grown in how to best support our female athletes and have always worked to do our best to play a strong role in championing, celebrating and supporting female athletes and we are committed to continuing to do so.

“Last year we standardized our approach across all sports to support our female athletes during pregnancy, but we recognize we can go even further. Moving forward, our contracts for female athletes will include written terms that reinforce our policy.

“Our mission has always been to support athletes as they strive to be their best. We want to make it clear today that we support women as they decide how to be both great mothers and great athletes. We recognize we can do more and that there is an important opportunity for the sports industry to evolve to support female athletes.”

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