Nike, US Officials Draw Heat Over Team USA Women’s Track and Field Uniforms

Rachel Acenas
By Rachel Acenas
April 16, 2024Sports News
Nike, US Officials Draw Heat Over Team USA Women’s Track and Field Uniforms
Athletes attend a Nike event in Paris, France, on April 11, 2024. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. officials have pushed back on allegations of sexism following controversy over uniforms for women athletes in the upcoming Olympic Games.

The official Team USA attire for women’s track and field athletes became the center of debate after the outfits were unveiled at Nike’s special launch event in Paris on Thursday.

One of the uniforms offered in Nike’s athlete kit features a high-cut bikini bottom that some athletes believe is too revealing and inappropriate, and even more so, not practical or functional for sports performance.

Lauren Fleshman, retired U.S. world champion runner, called it another example of patriarchal perpetuation.

“This is not an elite athletic kit for track and field. This is a costume born of patriarchal forces that are no longer welcome or needed to get eyes on women’s sports… Stop making it harder for half the population,” the Olympian wrote in a social media post.

Ms. Fleshman argued that professional athletes should be able to compete “without every part of their bodies on display” and further accused both Nike and United States Track and Field (USATF) of sexism.

“If this outfit was truly beneficial to physical performance, then men would wear it,” she added.

“They are absolutely not made for performance. Our bodies are all different, and it seems silly to expect us to compete at the highest level of our sport without a properly fit uniform,” Colleen Quigly, U.S. Olympian, and middle-distance runner said in a statement.

USATF, the national governing body, defended the attire and said that Nike consulted with athletes to ensure the designs were “well-suited for events” and also argued that athletes have many choices for uniforms.

“The Team USA track and field uniforms revealed on Thursday are only two of many options, including 50 unique pieces, that athletes will be able to choose from for the upcoming Olympic Games,” it said in a statement.

U.S. world champion sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson modeled another version of the kit at Nike’s launch event, which included shorts. The outfit was featured in Nike’s social media post which appeared to be a response to controversy over the attire.

NTD Photo
U.S. athlete Sha’Carri Richardson attends a Nike event in Paris on April 11, 2024. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images)

“When we listen to the voice of the athlete, anything is possible. The world’s best competitors lit up the stage at our #NikeOnAir event in Paris, a testament to the inspiration at the heart of every Nike Innovation,” the company wrote in its post.

The bikini-cut version of the uniform was first featured by track and field outlet and digital media company Citius Mag. The online image featured side-by-side mannequins that displayed the male and female versions of the attire. The female mannequin wore a high-cut brief that showed significantly more skin in comparison to the coverage on the male version.

While American pole vaulter and Olympic gold medalist Katie Moon recognized concerns over Nike’s uniforms, she admitted that she actually prefers to wear less, not more, material to compete in her event. It is a personal choice that is up to each individual athlete and should not be judged, she argued.

“When you attack the buns and crop top saying something along the lines of ‘its sexist,’ (which, if that were our only choice it would be), even if it’s with the best of intentions, you’re ultimately attacking our decision as women to wear it,” Ms. Moon wrote as part of a lengthy social media post.

Even before the backlash over the attire, Nike said in a press release that the uniforms were designed to meet athletes’ exact needs and specifications.

“During testing, this fit allowed me to move freely and without distraction, and I love how the look represents Team USA,” said hurdler Anna Cockrell, who participated in the design process.

The summer Olympic games are scheduled to begin on July 26 in Paris.

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