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Olympic champion Simone Biles leaves Nike for Athleta

Simone Biles is framed by palm trees.
Simone Biles at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. The decorated Olympian now has her own partnership with Athleta.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Simone Biles has left Nike and joined Athleta. The Gap-owned company announced the news Friday on Twitter, saying the deal was “fueled by our shared commitment to empower the next generation of girls.” The four-time gold medalist expressed her own excitement as well and quoted the Wall Street Journal article that first reported the news.

“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 of the new partnership with the company, which is 97% female. “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.”

While there is no value of the contract reported, Athleta is providing Biles with her own line of performance and casual wear and has pledged to support Biles’ own post-Olympics gymnastics tour. Biles said that the company’s stance on diversity and inclusion, as well as its emphasis on empowering women, were important factors in her decision.

Biles, who holds the record for most world championship medals and was one of many victims of abuse by USA Gymnastics’ team doctor, follows fellow Olympian Allyson Felix in leaving Nike and joining Athleta for similar reasons. The decorated sprinter joined in 2019 after publicly criticizing Nike for its lack of support for pregnant women and new mothers. Athleta cited its success with Felix in its decision to pursue Biles.

“When Allyson joined our team, we recognized right away how powerful this was for the brand, but we also recognized how deep that relationship went,” Athleta chief product officer Jana Henning said, “so as we were thinking about, ‘Who do we want to partner with, who is out there in the world?’ Simone was an obvious choice just from the beginning.”

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Simone Biles became America’s most decorated gymnast — male or female — in 2019 when she won her 24th and 25th medals at the world championships.

This is the second departure in one week for Nike after Vanessa Bryant left the company with the expiration of Kobe Bryant’s contract. In December, Nike also lost Jerry Lorenzo to Adidas as the Fear of God designer became their head of basketball and will establish his own athletic company under their umbrella.

On Twitter, people imagined how the apparel giant might be feeling with the news of Biles’ exit.


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