By Iacovos Iacovides, Contributor
While for male athletes, discussions surrounding their marriages will be limited to a few photographs of the newlyweds, the arrival of children and the occasional gossip that animates the masses; for female athletes the story is entirely different. With widespread perceptions and expectations focusing on childbearing and matrimony that transcend sports, there is certainly additional pressure and interest in aspects of the marriage that is usually not seen in the cases of male athletes.
When planning to get married, the potential obstacles that you may encounter as a female athlete can be broken down into three questions: How does it affect your financial status? How much pressure will you have to deal with from peripheral actors, such as the media? And the big one: Will it affect your career progression in the long run?
Conversations about prenups have traditionally been the monopoly of male athletes. Until very recently you could scarcely find a female athlete that was earning more than your average banker, while male athletes have been making millions for decades now. With the ever-growing popularity of female sports with broader audiences, the salaries of female athletes have started rising. Therefore, a prenup might be a good idea to set your marriage on stronger foundations by trying to eliminate the element of suspicion. Moreover, it’s not just the financial side of things, but also the PR. High profile divorces tend to turn nasty and can impact your mental health, social life and reputation. A prenup can ensure that a divorce is as painless as a divorce can be.
The bigger your platform, the more interest your marriage will draw. However, the problem is that while male athletes will just be smiling for the camera and questions will be restricted to ‘How did you two meet?’ or ‘How did you propose?’, there will be additional questions for female athletes such as:
‘Are you worried about the impact on your career?’
‘Are you planning on having children?’
‘Will you take a step back from your career to focus on your family?’
Such questions can be distressing, intrusive and invasive. Remember when the Chicago tribune had the audacious headline: Wife of a Bears’ lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics.
You will also have to deal with how marriage affects your career and your brand. If you’ve developed your personal brand in such a way that it effortlessly fits into a change in your marital status, then no problem. But it might be the case that your personal brand is diametrically opposed to marriage. In that case you will have to repackage your image, which many celebrities, including athletes do on a regular basis.
Although marriage itself is less likely to impact your career, having children might be more onerous. It is no secret that having children is sometimes perceived by employers as an impediment to career dedication. Maternity leave, the inability to practise and compete for protracted periods of times is not looked upon favorably. And sport clubs are not the only problem; you have to factor in sponsors and endorsement deals. “Getting pregnant is the kiss of death for a female athlete” said to the NY Times Phoebe Wright, who was running for Nike in the early 2010s, adding that had she got pregnant she would try to conceal it from Nike. Nonetheless, it is something that you have to deal with and stand up for yourself when necessary.
Female athletes are often faced with burdensome and unnecessary obstacles when getting married. Although steps towards gender equality have been drastic and substantial over the last couple of decades, there is still a long way to go. The best that a female athlete can do is plan ahead and make sure that they nip such problems in the bud. A proactive strategy drafted alongside your lawyer and PR manager can make such a life-changing event as smooth as possible.
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