Simone Biles usually turns heads with her unparalleled prowess as a gymnast, but on Friday she did it with an endorsement move.
Biles is ending her sponsorship with Nike and moving to Athleta, praising the Gap-owned brand for its work in uplifting women and girls. Biles said that “Athleta is committed to diversity and inclusion of all women, backgrounds, ages, sizes, abilities, and races.”
It’s the second high-profile departure for Nike this week: the company could not reach a deal with Vanessa Bryant and Kobe Bryant’s estate to continue their 18-year partnership.
With Biles, winner of 30 Olympic and World Championship medals, now in the fold and its partnership with Allyson Felix, winner of 27 track and field medals, Athleta sponsors two of the most decorated athletes in history.
Felix called out Nike in a 2019 New York Times op-ed for cutting her and other female athletes’ pay when they could not compete because they were pregnant. Felix left Nike for Athleta that same year. The controversy caused Nike to change its maternity leave policies.
“The opportunity to encourage young girls to reach their full potential and be a force for change is incredibly powerful,” said Biles. She will release signature products with the brand.
In October, Gap Inc. laid out plans to close 350 Gap and Banana Republic stores, but wants to open 100 Athleta stores and double the brand’s revenue to $2 billion. Earlier this week, Athleta announced its expansion into Canada in both e-commerce and retail.
Nike said it wishes Biles “the very best” and that it will “continue to champion” the company’s female athletes.