Simone Biles ends Nike sponsorship deal, signs with Athleta

In a statement, 24-year-old Biles expressed admiration for Athleta’s commitment to recognizing and supporting the individual and collective strengths of women.

“Using my voice has empowered me a lot and I am grateful to have embarked on this new journey with Athleta to inspire young girls and women to do the same,” she said in her statement.

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Biles explained her decision on NBC’s “Today” show.

“They saw trust in me and they just have such a big platform,” Biles said of Athleta, a division of Gap Inc. “I like the way they inspire me in and out of the gym – not just as an athlete, but also as a person. “

The deal was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Moving from Nike to Athleta, Biles succeeds his Olympic champion Allyson Felix, a nine-time Olympic champion who won gold in the 200 meters at the 2012 London Games. Felix became Athleta’s first sponsored athlete in July 2019 after leaving Nike. She and others had criticized her for not supporting her pregnant athletes.

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Jon Solomon, editor-in-chief of the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society program, sees Biles’ decision as a further development in the trend for high-profile athletes to make value-based decisions when coordinating with corporate sponsors.

“We’re seeing athletes who have more voice and want to work with organizations that they believe reflect their values,” Solomon said in a phone interview. “We saw Allyson leave Felix Nike after criticizing the way she treated women, and we saw LeBron James take activism to a new level. There is also mounting evidence that fans want the athletes and the teams they choose to believe in something more than just winning games. “

With neither Biles nor Athleta disclosing the financial terms of the deal, Solomon says it’s a little difficult to assess the broad reasons for the sponsor change.

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Biles, 24, turned pro in 2015 and signed with Nike ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she won all-round gold and four other medals.

After taking a year off, she resumed training with new coaches Laurent and Cecile Landi and increased the level of her gymnastics. At the 2019 World Championships in Stuttgart, Biles’ most recent competition and the last world championships before the pandemic, she became the most awarded gymnast in history with 25 world medals.

As she progressed as a gymnast, Biles has matured as a person as well, raising her voice in a powerful effect on USA Gymnastics’ failure to protect its athletes from serial abuser Larry Nassar and its failure to keep a full record of the To deliver survivors.

Aiming to defend her all-round Olympic title, Biles trains six days a week at the World Champions Center, the gym her family owns in Spring, Texas, north of Houston. She told NBC that her training is going well and that she is working on another signature move – the Vault – that she plans to debut in Tokyo.