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NIKE

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Nike : to Change Pregnancy Policy in Athlete Contracts

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05/18/2019 | 04:49pm EDT

By Khadeeja Safdar

Nike Inc. said it is adding language to new contracts for female athletes that will protect their pay during pregnancy, after coming under fire for cutting compensation for some athletes.

The sneaker giant said Friday it had adopted the policy last year but was now writing the terms into its future endorsement deals. Previously, the contracts gave Nike the right to reduce pay if runners failed to meet performance thresholds for any reason, including pregnancy or childbirth.

Although Nike isn't changing existing contracts, the company said current athletes would receive similar protections. "We will provide appropriate assurances for existing contracts to reinforce our policy," a Nike spokesman said Friday.

The move comes days after one of its former runners, Alysia Montaño, criticized Nike and its rivals for their policies around pregnancy.

In an op-ed published in the New York Times, Ms. Montaño said that when she told Nike several years ago that she wanted to have a baby during her career, the company told her it would pause her contract and stop paying her. She changed sponsors and signed with Asics.

"The sports industry allows for men to have a full career and when a woman decides to have a baby it pushes women out at their prime," she said in a video published on Mother's Day.

On Saturday, Ms. Montaño, an Olympian and U.S. national champion, said she was pleased that Nike was adding protections in new contracts, but questioned the company's assurances for existing athletes. "If they get pregnant, are they just supposed to take Nike's word for it?" she said.

After switching sponsors, she famously competed in the 2014 U.S. championships when she was eight months pregnant. Following the birth of her daughter, she said that Asics also threatened to end her contract.

She had received assurances from Asics, she said, but those weren't enough. "Because it wasn't in my contract, they threatened to penalize me," she said in an interview Saturday. "I had to fight for my money."

Ms. Montaño said she is still waiting for Asics and other brands to provide more clarity on whether they are changing their contracts. "They are being let off the hook," she said.

Nike acknowledged it had reduced pay for a few female athletes, but said that last year it changed its policies so women would no longer be penalized financially for pregnancy. However, that change wasn't written into contracts.

"Moving forward, our contracts for female athletes will include written terms that reinforce our policy," the Nike spokesman said. "We recognize we can do more and that there is an important opportunity for the sports industry to evolve to support female athletes."

A spokesman for Asics said the company "honors the contracts of our athletes during the duration of their pregnancy and return to competition."

Write to Khadeeja Safdar at khadeeja.safdar@wsj.com

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Financials ($)
Sales 2019 39 110 M
EBIT 2019 4 873 M
Net income 2019 4 094 M
Debt 2019 205 M
Yield 2019 1,02%
P/E ratio 2019 32,83
P/E ratio 2020 27,54
EV / Sales 2019 3,36x
EV / Sales 2020 3,12x
Capitalization 131 B
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Income Statement Evolution
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Mean consensus OUTPERFORM
Number of Analysts 32
Average target price 90,5 $
Spread / Average Target 8,5%
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Managers
NameTitle
Mark G. Parker Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer
Eric D. Sprunk Chief Operating Officer
Andrew Campion Chief Financial Officer & Executive Vice President
Hans van Alebeek Vice President-Global Operations & Technology
James H. Scholefield Global Chief Information Officer & Vice President
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