The Nike Oregon Project, a Nike company group that trained long-distance runners in the United States, has come under fire in recent years. At the beginning of November, they were brought back into the spotlight.
Mary Cain, an elite runner who was part of Nike’s Oregon Project, came out with emotional and physical abuse allegations against the project Nov. 7. Her allegations, published by The New York Times, include being forced to lose weight with birth control pills and diuretics – even though diuretics are banned. She also claims she was body-shamed in front of her teammates for her weight. Cain reports she even stopped menstruating for three years, and because menstruation provides estrogen required for bone health, she ended up breaking five bones. She also noted that she began cutting herself and having suicidal thoughts.
Sadly, shaming women about their weight is nothing new, even in the sports world. Since Cain came forward with these allegations, many more women have been inspired to share their stories.
Amy Yoder Begley, who runs the 10,000 meter race, revealed she had been told by coaches that she “was too fat and ‘had the biggest butt on the starting line,’” according to the Houston Chronicle.
That same article noted that after Kara Goucher placed fifth in the Boston Marathon six months after having a baby. Her trainer told her that she needed to lose her baby weight so she could be even faster. This comment came after Goucher ran her personal best of 2 hours and 24 minutes, making it one of the fastest times an American woman ran that year in the marathon.
Forbes reported that Serena Williams has dealt with similar issues, as she was ridiculed for wearing a bodysuit, or what she called a “Wakanda-inspired catsuit,” when she played at the 2018 French Open. The main purpose of the bodysuit was to prevent her from getting blood clots, which she struggled with following the birth of her daughter nine months before. However, the media and even the president of the French Tennis Federation, Bernard Giudicelli, had something to say about it. Giudicelli stated that Williams’ outfit would no longer be allowed.
“You have to respect the game and the place,” said Giudicelli.
While the bodysuit was a compression bodysuit, it covered more skin than a traditional tennis outfit. Also, many sports have more revealing outfits than a full bodysuit, like swimming and wrestling.
“You can take the superhero out of her costume, but you can never take away her superpowers,” Nike tweeted in support of Williams.
Additionally, a 2016 study by Yale University found that 25 percent of female college athletes have an eating disorder. Yale then surveyed their own female college athletes and found a similar situation. At least one female athlete from each sport at Yale reported having an eating disorder or being insecure about their body.
The problem here is clear. No matter what a woman accomplishes, society and people in power are still obsessed with appearance. Women in sports have had to overcome many obstacles, like fighting for their right to run in the Boston Marathon, and they continue to fight for their right to be paid equal to their male counterparts. Today, women play sports in hijabs and coach NBA teams. The time to start accepting women’s accomplishments as real accomplishments is now.