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Nike responds to criticism over women's Olympic track and field kit

By Vivian Hendriksz


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Nike Team USA track and field uniform Credits: Nike

Nike and several USA Olympic athletes have stepped forward to address online controversy concerning the brand’s designs for the women's Team USA track and field kit following the circulation of a certain photo earlier this month.

The US sportswear giant initially unveiled its Olympic uniforms for the United States of America and other countries on April 11 during an event in Paris. However, a single photograph of one of Nike’s USA track and field uniforms has gone on to become the subject of a flurry of online criticism, with many branding the women’s track and field uniform as “sexist,” “revealing,” and “skimpy.”

The photo in question, released by the running publication Citius Mag, featured two options for the track and field uniform on mannequins alongside each other. The women’s option, a bodysuit with a high-cut leg and brief bottoms, was shown alongside a one-piece uniform for men with longer shorts on mannequins, sparking criticism around the world.

One of the many to comment on the photograph was American long jumper and world silver medalist Tara Davis-Woodhall, a 2024 Olympic competitor, who wrote, “Wait for my hoo-hah is going to be out.” What Davis-Woodhall and many others failed to realize at the time was that the high-cut bodysuit is just one of multiple options athletes can choose from for their uniforms this summer in Paris.

Nike has acknowledged concerns regarding the bodysuit, noting its track and field kits include close to 50 separate pieces and 12 competition styles customized to specific events. During the launch show in Paris on April 11, selected athletes such as Athing Mu, a middle-distance runner for the US, and Sha’Carri Richardon, a sprinter, modeled different options from the brand.

The sportswear brand went on to release photographs of other styles shown at the Paris event in an Instagram post on April 13, in which an athlete showcased both briefs and shorts versions of the bodysuit in question.

During a Team USA media summit held in Manhattan earlier this week, Davis-Woodhall, together with other US Olympian withdrew their initial criticism for the uniform, attributing it to the photograph. “It was the picture that did no justice,” said Davis-Woodhall during the event on April 16. “I saw one [of the uniforms] today. They’re beautiful. They’re not like the picture. The cut does look a little bit different on that mannequin. They just should have had a second look with someone to choose that photo to post,” she added according to the Guardian.

Gabby Thomas, the bronze and silver winner of the women’s 200m and 4 x 200m relay in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, stated she was “initially shocked like everybody else” when she first saw the uniform in the viral photo. But she noted that she felt comforted when she read US pole vaulter Katie Moon's defense of the uniform on social media.

In her post, Moon highlighted that criticism towards the bodysuit also attacks athletes who may decide to wear it. The point is we DO have the choice of what to wear, and whether we feel the best in a potato sack or a bathing suit during competitions, we should support the autonomy,” wrote Moon in her post.

“What was shown on the mannequin kit was concerning and warranted the response it received,” she wrote. “I absolutely love people defending women, but we have at least 20 different combinations of a uniform to compete in with all the tops and bottoms available to us.” She went on to clarify that the men’s uniform is also available for women, and they “do have the option “DO have the choice of what to wear.”

In a press release concerning 2024 national and federation kits, Nike stressed that the designs were among “the most athlete-informed, data-driven, and visually unified the company has ever produced.” The sportswear brand leveraged innovative 4D motion-capture technology and refined algorithms to ensure each kit or uniform was customized to the rigorous demands of every competition. “Nike designed the Paris 2024 track and field kits to offer athletes a range of silhouettes tailored for various sports disciplines, body types, and sizes, prioritizing performance and maximum breathability,” said John Hoke, chief innovation officer at Nike, in the press release.

Nike added that the design of each kit was inspired by the distinct identities and diverse communities each country and sport represents. The brand noted that it worked directly with athletes throughout all stages of the design process to ensure an ideal fit across a range of body types and style preferences. “I’ve had the opportunity to share feedback and insights that helped inform the new USATF Kit,” added hurdler Anna Cockrell. “During testing, this fit allowed me to move freely and without distraction, and I love how the look represents Team USA.”

The sportswear brands stressed that athletes will be free to select whichever outfit they feel most comfortable in to compete in during the games in Paris, whether it be from the women’s or men’s designs. “Our athletes’ comfort level in their performance wear remains a top priority, and our designers created variations of pieces tuned to specific athlete preferences,” added Janett Nichol, VP of apparel innovation at Nike.