Nike became the first brand to sign an athlete with cerebral palsy. Justin Gallegos, a junior at the University of Oregon, is the first professional athlete to be signed with his condition.
Cerebral palsy is the result of a brain injury or malformation that affects individuals from birth. The physical impairment makes the lives of those with this disorder much more difficult.
The condition effects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance.
Cerebral palsy can also effect fine, gross and oral motor skills, which makes daily life complicated. The disease varies from person to person, as does the severity. Many are told from birth that walking will become a difficult, or nearly impossible, task.
According to “Running Magazine,” Gallegos used walkers along with physical therapy in his early years of life to improve his walking capabilities.
The determined Gallegos decided that not only was he going to walk, but he was going to run. Today, he is a talented runner for the University of Oregon that experiences knock knees due to his impairment.
Gallegos has been in contact with Nike in the past. During high school, Nike partnered with Gallegos to help develop products for those with disabilities.
The FlyEase shoe design came about with help from Gallegos. It is designed with a zippered heel to make the process of getting shoes on and off easier for those with disabilities.
“It is definitely possible, but the odds are most definitely not in your favor! Hard work pays off! Hundreds of miles, blood, sweat, and tears has lead me here along with a few permanent scars! But the journey is damn sure not over,” Gallegos shared on his Instagram, @zoommagic.
Gallegos is undoubtedly an inspiration to those with and without disabilities. His determination has led him to break molds and stereotypes previously set for him. Many tell underrepresented people that they cannot achieve certain roles, but Gallegos made sure to prove those people wrong.
“I was once a kid in leg braces who could barely put one foot in front of the other! Now I have signed a contract with Nike Running! Trust the process! And most of all trust in God! God is good! Thank you to all my friends, family, and teammates on running club, and now a brand new atmosphere on teammates with Nike! This moment will live forever! Thank you everyone for helping show the world that there is No Such Thing As A Disability,” Gallegos said on his Instagram.
Nike is increasing its visibility for all people, whether that’s race, sexual orientation or disability. Gallegos’ representation for Nike’s company will contribute to thousands of athletes with similar disabilities feeling the recognition they deserve.
“I think that it’s cool of Nike to sign someone that most sports brands wouldn’t,” said freshman accounting major Joshua Geither.
Other sports brands have signed underrepresented athletes, but Nike is making efforts to have those individuals seen in the media.
Nike’s FlyEase, designed with the help of Gallegos, is an example of how Nike is determined to work with athletes to sell products that are beneficial for them.
Gallegos is breaking records and stereotypes for people everywhere. Nike and Gallegos will continue to work together to push for more inclusive products and overall representation of people with disabilities.