Simone Biles has chosen to end her partnership with Nike in favor of a new one with Athleta, and we think it’s a great move.
Simone Biles is indisputably the greatest gymnast of our time. Period. She’s the most decorated gymnast ever and leaves everyone’s jaw on the floor every time she competes. While Biles is tiny at only 4’8”, her talent and power are anything but that. The Ohio native and Olympian brings people to their feet.
Biles’s new deal with Athleta was announced Friday and came as a shock to many, given Nike has a market value of $204 billion while Athleta sits at only $12 billion. Not a small business to be sure, but compared to fitness giant Nike, Athleta is quite small. That said, the brand is growing fast and is projected to double sales in the next couple years. And we’re convinced the move was a smart one by Biles all the way around.
The Deal Is Just in Time for the Summer Olympics
The deal has Biles switching from Nike to Athleta just three months before the Tokyo Summer Olympics. It’s perfect timing for Athleta, a chance to break onto the world stage with one of the greatest female athletes of all time representing them.
The fitness brand is connected to The Gap, and unlike Nike, is marketed solely at women and girls. And while you probably hear the most about their leggings on social media, they have a full range of activewear for various physical activities. Biles will be creating her own line of activewear, as well as be the face of the brand.
Lifting Up Girls and Women
One of the striking differences between Nike and Athleta is the latter’s focus on marketing specifically to girls and women. Their company mission as a B corporation (a business that balances interests of shareholders with those of their social goals) is focused on the empowerment of women and girls. This was a big factor in Biles’ decision to step away from Nike.
I think they stand for everything I stand for.
Biles’ focus will be on Athleta Girl, which makes a lot of sense given gymnastics is mostly practiced by younger girls and generally given up with age. After all, not many of us are blessed with Biles’ natural talent and dedication for the sport. It’s also a great way to encourage young women to get active and develop a new skill.
When talking about the partnership, Biles said, “I think they stand for everything I stand for.”
Nike’s Façade Is Cracking
Nike has been no stranger to scandals the last few years. While pushing for social justice agendas in the U.S., with brand faces like Lebron James and Colin Kaepernick, Nike has been all too happy to turn a blind eye to their own moral failings. They continue to profit from the oppression of ethnic Uighur Muslims who are being moved into government-directed labor camps within China.
And as if that weren’t enough, Nike has had a plethora of sexism allegations over the years, both from women athletes who have been signed on to contracts and from their female employees.
Nike has been all too happy to turn a blind eye to their own moral failings.
Their female employees have complained about the unhealthy office environment at Nike headquarters. And this isn’t complaining about quasi-sexsim. We’re talking about staff outings that would end in strip clubs, superiors commenting on the condoms he had with him, physical and verbal sexual harassment, and lack of upward mobility for women. The list goes on and on.
And then, of course, there’s their treatment of women athletes. For example, runner Alyson Felix recounted how she was offered less pay after having a child. Contracts that punish women for the very natural desire to become a mother don’t sound particularly like women’s empowerment to me.
Even with the justification that a female athlete is less likely to be actively competing after having a child, they signed Colin Kaepernick to a contract worth millions when he was no longer a quarterback for the NFL. But, hey, maybe the $204 billion dollar activewear giant that could clearly afford to continue paying an employee despite her parental decision has a legitimate reason why they don’t. What do I know?
If Biles wants to stand up for women, parting ways with Nike is the perfect way to start.
Taking Down U.S.A. Gymnastics
By now everyone is probably aware of the sexual harassment scandal covered up by U.S.A. Gymnastics: Perpetrator Dr. Larry Nassar sexually abused the gymnasts all the way up to the Olympic level while acting in the trusted position of team doctor.
Given her personal experience with Nassar’s abuse, Biles is likely grateful for the opportunity she now has to more directly fight back against U.S.A. Gymnastics through her deal with Athleta. The Athleta-funded exhibition tour following the Olympics will come into direct competition with the exhibition tour put on by U.S.A. Gymnastics. As U.S.A. Gymnastics failed to protect girls and women from sexual abuse happening under their supervision, this partnership with Athleta will give Biles another avenue to combat abuse in the athletic world.
Her partnership with Athleta gives Biles another avenue to combat abuse in the athletic world.
Athleta president Mary Beton has described the new partnership as “more than just a sports apparel partnership” but a “way to support Simone in her full life. As she takes on the next stage in Tokyo and beyond, we really want to support that as well.” As Biles works through her own recovery and pushes for change for others, Athleta feels like the perfect place for her to be.
Biles is one of the greatest female athletes, and athletes period, of all time. And this new girls and women focused sponsorship with Athleta seems like the perfect move for the change maker. Especially with Nike’s history of sexism and continued perpetration of the oppression of Uighur Muslims, the smaller yet on the rise Athleta is a much better fit for Biles.
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