fashion emergency

Nike’s Skimpy US Women’s Olympic Uniforms Are Being Heavily Criticized By Athletes

The popular sportswear brand has responded to the negative reaction.

Nike's new track and field uniforms are being criticized by both athletes and the public.
@CitiusMag / X / Johnny Pace

After a “first look” of Nike’s new outfit design for the U.S. women’s Olympic team went viral on social media, athletes as well as the public have been extremely vocal about their disgust, with one former U.S. athlete describing it as a “costume born of patriarchal forces.”

Images of both the men’s and women’s outfits dressed on mannequins were made public last week as part of a kit launch ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic games.

The picture of the women’s leotard on display had a very high-cut bikini line, barely covering the genital area, triggering a wave of criticism.

Former U.S. track and field athlete Lauren Fleshman posted her thoughts on the revealing uniform, writing a lengthy caption about the uniform, wondering how something like this gets approved by higher-ups at Nike.

“I’m sorry, but show me one WNBA or NWSL team who would enthusiastically support this kit. This is for Olympic Track and Field. Professional athletes should be able to compete without dedicating brain space to constant pube vigilance or the mental gymnastics of having every vulnerable piece of your body on display,” she wrote.

Fleshman continued on, noting that she doesn’t buy the reasoning some gave for the uniform’s design, saying, “If this outfit was truly beneficial to physical performance, men would wear it. This is not an elite athletic kit for track and field. This is a costume born of patriarchal forces that are no longer welcome or needed to get eyes on women’s sports.”

“I’m queer and I’m attracted to female bodies, but I don’t expect or enjoy seeing female athletes or male athletes put in a position to battle self-consciousness at their place of work,” she concluded. “That is not part of the job description. I lived that life and know that excellence is born of unselfconsciousness, of freedom, and embodiment of action and instinct. Stop making it harder for half the population.”

Other athletes have also voiced concerns, including U.S. long jumper Tara Davis-Woodhall, who took a more humorous approach, writing: “Wait my hoo haa is gonna be out.”

The public has also been vocal since the uniforms were released.

“Did a porn addict design this,” one person asked.

“Men can worry about their athletic performance while women have to worry about chaffing [sic], their genitals not falling out and getting a bikini wax,” another wrote. “Definitely equal opportunities huh.”

“There’s a swimming pool in the ladies track & field now,” another wondered.

Nike has responded to the backlash, doubling down on the uniform’s design.

In a press release, Nike said all its designs were produced in partnership with athletes’ needs.

“Working directly with athletes throughout every stage of the design process, Nike designed garments to ensure fit across a range of body types and style preferences, and infused real-time feedback throughout the entire product development cycle,” John Hoke, Nike chief innovation officer, said in the release.

A spokesperson for USA Track and Field (USATF) told CNN that the outfits in the launch were just two of many options among “50 unique pieces.”

“USATF is also aware that Nike consulted with athletes throughout the design process to ensure that all athletes are comfortable and that the uniforms are well-suited for their respective events.”

This is not the first time (or the first country) that has seen pushback over women’s Olympic uniforms.

At the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games, for example, the German women’s gymnastics team refused to wear bikini-cut unitards in favor of full-body versions, in what the German Gymnastics Federation branded a statement against sexualization in women’s sports.

On the flip side, male gymnasts wear body-covering clothes called singlets with loose shorts for their floor exercise and vault, and long pants on bar and pommel horse routines.

We can look at other sports where men and women both play the same exact sport, yet wear very different attire, like volleyball, golf, tennis, and soccer. And I think we all know why that is!