Simone Biles
Simone Biles.

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  • Gymnast Simone Biles is leaving Nike for a partnership with Gap-owned Athleta.
  • Biles told The Wall Street Journal that she's attracted to Athleta's values and female-focused team.
  • Sprinter Allyson Felix also signed a deal with Athleta following a high-profile split with Nike.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Gymnast Simone Biles is leaving Nike for a new partnership with apparel brand Athleta.

The five-time Olympic medalist has signed a deal with the Gap-owned athleticwear company that includes her own line of performance wear, according to The Wall Street Journal's Louise Radnofsky. Biles told The Journal that Athleta's core values and female-focused team led her to sign with the company.

"I felt like it wasn't just about my achievements, it's what I stood for and how they were going to help me use my voice and also be a voice for females and kids," she said. "I feel like they also support me, not just as an athlete, but just as an individual outside of the gym and the change that I want to create, which is so refreshing."

The Journal notes that despite Biles' sponsorship deal with Nike, which she signed in 2015, she has not been a major face of the brand, making only small appearances in advertisements. Biles is currently the best female gymnast in the world and is widely considered to be the greatest of all time.

Biles has 25 world-title medals, the most in the world - she's competed in just one Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, where she took home four gold medals and one bronze. She plans to compete in the Tokyo games, which will be held this summer after being pushed due to the pandemic.

A spokesperson for Nike did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. A Nike spokesperson told The Journal that "Simone Biles is an incredible athlete and we wish her the very best." The company "will continue to champion, celebrate and evolve to support our female athletes," the spokesperson said.

Read more: After gaining 2 million new customers with its masks, Athleta's head of merchandising reveals plans to keep them by becoming a 'lifestyle brand'

Biles decision to leave the Nike roster follows several instances of female athletes reporting issues with the company. Allyson Felix, one of the most decorated sprinters in history, accused the company of failing to support her decision to become a mother in a bombshell op-ed she wrote for The New York Times in May 2019. According to Felix, during contract negotiations that coincided with her pregnancy, Nike offered her a 70% pay cut and refused to guarantee that Felix wouldn't be punished for being unable to perform her best after childbirth.

Felix signed a deal with Athleta in 2019.

Multiple other female runners, including Kara Goucher, Phoebe Wright, and Alysia Montaño, have spoke up about the pressure to perform during or immediately after their pregnancies or face reduced sponsorship payments from Nike. The company has since instituted a new maternity policy that does not penalize pregnant athletes.

In 2019, Mary Cain, a female sprinter who was signed to Nike's high-profile Oregon Project track team, told The New York Times that she was pressured to get "thinner, and thinner, and thinner" at the detriment of her health. Nike launched an internal investigation and said it would make internal changes to better support female athletes.

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