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Simone Biles leaves Nike partnership to sign with Athleta

‘They are committed to diversity and inclusion, which was really important for me to see in a partner,’ Biles says

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Friday 23 April 2021 18:47 BST
Simone Biles announces partnership with Athleta.mp4

Simone Biles has exited her partnership with Nike to enter into a new deal with Gap’s Athleta, citing a desire to work with a company closely aligned with her values.

The Olympic gymnast’s partnership with the smaller female-focused athletic-wear brand was announced on Friday, with Biles explaining in an Instagram video that she decided to work with the brand because of its dedication to women and commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“They have a team that’s primarily women and that’s how they design their products for women and girls. They’re committed to diversity and inclusion, which was really important for me to see in a partner,” Biles said. “They show women and girls of all ages, sizes, abilities, races, and backgrounds and design their products that way too.

In the video, the 24-year-old also said that she “loves” that Athleta is aB-corporation, a class of businesses that balance “purpose and profit”.

“I also love that they are a B-corp, which means they are committed to using their business as a force for good for people and the planet,” Biles continued, adding that it was “super important” for her to align with a company that not only supports her as a gymnast and an athlete but also as “the individual that I am and the change that I want to create”.

Biles concluded the video reiterating that she wanted to partner with a brand that would inspire and “challenge” her to be the best version of herself and that “shares my passion to help girls rise and own their limitless potential”.

“Finding my voice has been a process, but it’s been very empowering for me, and I want to encourage others to find their voice too,” she said.

As part of the new partnership, Biles, who began working with Nike in 2015, will focus on Athleta Girl, with the company stating in a press release that the gymnast will collaborate with the design team to create signature products for “aspiring athletes”.

The company, which has now become Biles’ “exclusive active and athleisure apparel partner,” will also co-create the gold medallist’s own signature activewear line and facilitate direct conversations between the athlete and young women “through Athleta’s active and engaged community”.

Speaking to The Wall Street Journal about her decision to partner with Athleta, America’s most-decorated gymnast again spoke of the importance of working with a company that helps her use her voice and advocate for change.

“I felt like it wasn’t just about my achievements, it’s what I stood for and how they were going to help me use my voice and also be a voice for females and kids,” she said. “I feel like they also support me, not just as an athlete, but just as an individual outside of the gym and the change that I want to create, which is so refreshing.”

According to the outlet, Athleta, which was founded in 1998, has a 97-per cent female workforce.

Biles is not the first athlete to collaborate with the company after previously working with Nike. In 2019, track and field star Allyson Felix also signed a partnership with Athleta, after criticising her former brand partner over alleged failure to support pregnant athletes, the WSJ notes.

In May 2019, the former Nike athlete accused the brand in an op-ed of wanting to pay her70 per cent less after she gave birth in 2018, with Felix also revealing that she “asked Nike to contractually guarantee that I wouldn’t be punished if I didn’t perform at my best in the months surrounding childbirth” but that the company declined.

Late basketball star Kobe Bryant’s long-standing partnership with Nike also came to an end this week after the sportswear company failed to reach a new agreement with Vanessa Bryant and the Kobe Bryant estate.

In a statement shared with the WSJ following the news of Biles’ Athleta partnership, a Nike spokesperson said: “Simone Biles is an incredible athlete and we wish her the very best.”

The company also said that it will “continue to champion, celebrate and evolve to support our female athletes”.

In a statement from Mary Beth Laughton, president and chief executive officer of Athleta, she said: “We are excited to welcome Simone to the Athleta family and work together to further our mission of empowering women and girls. Simone believes in championing the next generation of female athletes as much as we do, and we are confident this partnership will continue to build community with our customers and enrich our brand.”

As of now, neither a launch date for her collection nor terms of Biles’ deal with Athleta have been disclosed.

The Independent has contacted Nike for comment.

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