Nike’s Olympic Track Uniform Design Draws Criticism Over Gender Disparity

Nike unveiled new Team USA track and field uniforms for athletes to compete in during the Paris Olympic games this summer, but what was supposed to be an exciting first look at the uniforms, turned into a debacle for the company as critics slammed the design.

“Tell me it was male designers without telling me it was male designers,” wrote professional runner Jessica Hanson in a comment that got over 11,000 likes. “This is clearly a joke 🤣😩….Im someone’s mom, I can’t be exposing myself in such ways. Where are the shorts ?! lol,” commented two-time paralympian Femita Ayanbeku. 

The designs, which were unveiled last week, were displayed on a male-shaped and female-shaped mannequin. The male mannequin had a conventional tank top and shorts combination, while the female mannequin was dressed in something that looked more like a one-piece bathing suit and appeared to be especially revealing around the pubic area. 

Sinclair Johnson, a Nike-sponsored professional runner, defended the company saying that she had participated in the testing process for the design, and that the image of the mannequin was misleading. “Lolol these comments have me 💀 but, Nike included a number of us in the kit testing process and I can assure you the bottoms don’t look like this on a real human,” she wrote in on instagram. 

Nike responded by saying that the designs displayed in the image were just one selection out of 50 possible styles and combinations, and that female athletes had multiple options to choose from, including some with shorts. 

“We showcased some of the new Olympic uniforms at the Nike On Air experience in Paris — but, as we are a few months from the Games and working with limited samples in a limited format presentation, not all looks and styles were featured,” a Nike spokesperson. Nike has not yet responded to TIME’s request for comment. 

Nevertheless, many still believe that the female display design being so different from the men’s display design is evidence of sexism. 

“Women’s kits should be in service to performance, mentally and physically. If this outfit was truly beneficial to physical performance, men would wear it,” , a retired professional track and field athlete, on instagram. “This is a costume born of patriarchal forces that are no longer welcome or needed to get eyes on women’s sports.”

Olympic gold medalist pole vaulter Katie Moon, who is also sponsored by Nike, criticized the uniforms but pushed back against the calls to make male and female uniforms as similar as possible. “I personally like the buns because I want as little fabric clinging to me when I’m hot and sweaty (which I am at 99% of meets I compete in). The point is we DO have the choice of what to wear, and whether we feel the best in a potato sack or a bathing suit during competitions, we should support the autonomy,” .