Athletes Unlimited Seeks to Change Culture With Pregnancy Policy

NEW YORK — Athletes Unlimited announced today the key provisions of its athlete-centered policy related to pregnancy and parental leave that will be incorporated into all athlete contracts.

In all Athletes Unlimited player contracts, the league unambiguously states that it will support and accommodate players who are pregnant or breastfeeding. To reaffirm players’ rights to make their own decisions, pregnant players can decide on their own accord whether to notify the league or the team doctor about their pregnancies, and they can choose whether to continue to play under their contract, with no penalty.

Pregnant players who need to take leave, whether for a pregnancy-related condition or to give birth, can take as much time off as they need during the season with pay. Athletes Unlimited will accommodate pregnant and breastfeeding players so they can continue to participate under their contracts for as long as they choose. Additionally, parental leave is available to any player whose spouse or partner gives birth or adopts. The policy also explicitly states that pregnancy will have no effect on a player’s eligibility for future contracts.

“Fundamentally, Athletes Unlimited believes that athletes should be in charge of their careers; that they know best what they’re capable of and, most importantly, that they should decide if and when to disclose that they’re pregnant,” said Jon Patricof, CEO and co-founder of Athletes Unlimited. “Athletes are at the forefront of decision-making across our organization. We respect all of our athletes’ needs and appreciate that pregnancy, breastfeeding and parenthood are part of our athletes’ lives. These policies are amongst the most accommodating in the industry and empower all of our athletes while ensuring the long-term viability of the league by attracting and retaining top talent.”

“When I became pregnant, I thought I was done with my professional career. I accepted that and embraced motherhood,” said Katie Carter, professional Opposite Hitter, Athletes Unlimited Volleyball. “Athletes Unlimited helped me to fulfill my dream of being able to return to the court after having a baby. I’m so thankful and thrilled to be a part of the inaugural Athletes Unlimited volleyball season. I feel stronger than I’ve ever felt with my daughter Noelia by my side.”

“Athletes Unlimited is leading the way in demonstrating the power of an innovative sports model where the success and well-being of athletes are prioritized,” said Angela Ruggiero, Athletes Unlimited Advisory Board Member and CEO, Sports Innovation Lab. “This policy reaffirms the right for athletes to make their own decisions and dispels the notion that pregnancy or motherhood is equated with underperformance, a myth that has plagued female athletes, and women in the workplace, for far too long.”

Athletes Unlimited produced a video championing an athlete’s right to make her own choices and decisions when it comes to pregnancy and parental leave. Voiced over by WNBA All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith, the video serves as a rallying cry for women everywhere who have faced pregnancy bias in the workplace and how, with its policies and leadership, Athletes Unlimited is using sports to help combat those stigmas.

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