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Allyson Felix, Alex Morgan and other athlete mothers changing the game

Andy Lyons/Getty Images for IAAF

It seems like every Olympic cycle we are presented with female athletes accomplishing ever more impressive feats both during pregnancy or while mothering infants and young children. These women have again and again challenged misbeliefs regarding what the human body is capable of.

Ahead of Tokyo, however, we’re seeing a new level of advocacy and activism from athlete moms who refuse to accept the notion that one must choose between elite level sports and motherhood. 

The four women featured below are tired of the rare story of a magnificent athlete being praised for somehow fitting children into her athletic career. Instead, they are fighting for systemic changes and built-in protections to normalize motherhood at even the highest levels of sports.  

Allyson Felix, Track and Field

It’s hard to think of an athlete who has done more for maternal rights in the sporting world than Allyson Felix. In 2018, during contract negotiations with Nike, the newly pregnant Felix refused to re-sign unless Nike changed their stipulations around pregnancy for its female athletes. 

Up until this point, a Nike athlete’s pay could be paused, reduced, or terminated if they failed to meet contractual performance standards during pregnancy and post-partum recovery. It wasn’t until Felix and a couple fellow athletes went public with their complaints, and a congressional inquiry was conducted, that Nike changed its policies and announced new maternity protections for all of its female athletes. By that time, Felix had found a new sponsor in Athleta, a company she felt fully supported all aspects of her identity, and with whom she recently launched her own footwear and lifestyle brand, Saysh.

Steph Chambers/Getty Images

In her latest move to support athlete mothers, Felix and Athleta teamed up with the Women’s Sports Foundation to create a $200,000 fund for mom-athletes to help offset childcare costs associated with travel for competition. Six of the first nice recipients are athletes headed to Tokyo this summer.

If what she’s done off the track is impressive, what she’s still doing on the track is mind blowing. She’s a 35-year-old mother of a toddler who just qualified for her fifth Olympic games, which is hard to fathom in any sport, but even more so in sprinting, where longevity at the upper echelon is fleeting. Felix will be joined on the 400M U.S. Olympic team by first place qualifier Quanera Hayes, who has a toddler of her own. After the two mothers qualified together, Hayes expressed her gratitude to Felix, saying “I just told her I was grateful for all that she’s done for mothers, being that I am a mother, how she fought for us and her paving the way for me as an athlete and all she has done for this sport.”

Kim Gaucher, Basketball

Canadian National Basketball Team member Kim Gaucher has a three-month-old daughter and is heading into her third Olympics. She’s been part of the Canadian national team since 2001 but has been playing basketball primarily in Europe after a brief stint in the WNBA. The 13th overall pick in the 2006 draft, Gaucher became the first female student-athlete to have her jersey retired by the University of Utah. 

In the lead up to the Tokyo games this summer, Gaucher took to social media for what she called a “hail mary” to convince Olympic organizers to let breast-feeding athletes bring their children with them to Tokyo.

In her heartfelt plea she stated, “All I’ve ever wanted out of my basketball career has been to rep Canada at the Olympics… But right now I’m being forced to decide between being a breastfeeding mom or an Olympic athlete. I can’t have them both. Tokyo has said no friends, no family, no exceptions.”

When her video garnered traction online, media attention followed, and Tokyo officials felt the heat. Within a week of her posting her plea, the IOC announced Olympic mothers would be allowed to bring their breastfeeding children with them to Tokyo. Upon hearing the good news, Gaucher stated, “To all of the working moms out there who’ve had to fight this fight before, I think it’s just a really good day for women in sport.”

Mandy Bujold, Boxing

In late 2019, eleven-time Canadian National Champion boxer Mandy Bujold was well on track to qualify for her second Olympic games. Her first Olympic experience in Rio in 2016 had ended in heartbreak when she was hospitalized due to illness and then promptly lost in the quarterfinals. After taking time off from competing in 2018 and 2019 to have her daughter, Bujold had re-entered the ring and was looking to redeem her disappointing 2016 showing. When Covid-19 cancelled Olympic qualification events, the IOC Boxing Task Force decided to use rankings from three tournaments in 2018 and 2019 to determine Tokyo 2020 qualification.

Unfortunately for Bujold, she had been out during that time with pregnancy and post-partum recovery. After her original appeal to the IOC for an accommodation was denied, her last hope was to submit her case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. 

On June 30, the CAS ruled that the IOC Boxing Task Force qualification system must include an accommodation for women who were pregnant or postpartum during the qualification period. Bujold was named to the official Olympic roster the following week and considers the CAS ruling a huge victory for female athletes.

“I am so proud that we’ve set a human rights precedent for female athletes now, and for the generations to come.” If this ruling is applied to all sports and all Olympic qualifying systems, it would be a monumental change for female Olympians going forward. 

Alex Morgan, Soccer

Alex Morgan is far from the first athlete to return to the USWNT after birthing a child (or children), but she’s the only mother on the current roster. She’s also arguably the most famous U.S. soccer player to become a mother in the midst of her career, and fans can’t get enough of seeing her as a mom with her daughter Charlie. With so many eyeballs on her actions and choices as a mother, she is greatly impacting how the public perceives professional athlete moms. By sharing training videos during her pregnancy, Morgan challenged misconceptions about the capabilities of pregnant bodies and physical training during pregnancy.

In her first interview after becoming a mom, Morgan told longtime friend and teammate Kelley O’Hara on the Just Women’s Sport podcast that she was frustrated by the dearth of research and data on training for pregnant athletes. 

“I found some blogs about women running marathons late in pregnancy,” she recalled, “so I just tried to be as careful as possible but stick to who I am as an athlete.”

As the once-postponed Olympics finally approached, there was confusion around Covid-19 restrictions for Olympic mothers with breastfeeding children. Morgan used her platform to speak out, calling for clarity and empowerment for mothers in this category like herself.

Morgan raises her voice when needed, but it’s really in her daily actions as a mom and a star of the most popular women’s sports team in the world that she constantly redefines how we view mom athletes.

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

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