Will Nick Symmonds be Smiling in Beijing? Photo credit: Micah Drew, Boise Weekly
Here’s the problem. When an endemic sponsor — in this case Nike — is signed to a generation long contract as the footwear and apparel sponsor of your national athletics federation, there will be unintended consequences that fail to serve the best interest of one constituency or another over that period. That is the situation that currently confronts 2013 800 meter World Championships silver medalist Nick Symmonds who had until noon today to sign the USATF “Statement of Conditions” contract that attends his Team USA berth on the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Beijing, China later this month.
Symmonds, formerly a Nike athlete, is now sponsored by Brooks. But under USATF by-laws, athletes competing at the world championships or Olympics (or other Team USA selected competitions) are prohibited from wearing non-USATF sponsored gear during “official team functions”.
As to what constitutes “official team functions” is the wording Symmonds contends is both vaguely written and in violation of his personal contract with Brooks. USATF CEO Max Siegel has told Mr. Symmonds that if he doesn’t sign he will be replaced on the team. And so it goes. And so we wait. (Late on August 9 Mr. Symmonds was informed he has been dropped from the team for Beijing for failure his to sign the contract.)
But with USATF signing Nike to a reported 23-year, $500 million extension as exclusive shoe and apparel sponsor for Team USA in April 2014, every athlete signed by any other shoe company finds him / herself in opposition to his/her own best interests since they will not benefit financially from the USATF deal with Nike — other than to elevate their future marketability by performing well on the stage provided. The situation is similar to the IOC generating $6 billion in sponsorship and TV rights from the Olympic Games, none of which is distributed directly to the athletes who make those Games possible and profitable.
But we must also look at the issue from the national federation’s standpoint, recalling the state of USA Track & Field over the last generation, and the job confronting Mr. Siegel when he took the CEO job three years ago. Continue reading
The state of the sport is never far from the minds of its most accomplished practitioners, for they are children of the game fully in the thrall of its embrace. This past weekend in Seattle Brooks Shoes brought together 135 of the sports budding new generation for a celebration of youthful competition at the Brooks PR Invitational. Friday before the meet, however, several of the top professionals sponsored by Brooks met with members of the press for an open-ended discussion of any and all things running. Among the questions asked of Gabby Grunewald, Garrett Heath, Katie Mackey and Nick Symmonds was, “If you could change just one thing about the sport, what would it be?”
Grunewald, Heath, Mackey, Symmonds meet the press and press for changes
Not surprisingly, runners are a politically savvy group, always have been. Among today’s pros few have been as politically outspoken as five-time U.S. 800-meter champion Nick Symmonds, who recently signed with Brooks. He took first crack at the leading question. Continue reading
Down Goes Alysia
How many times have each of us come together in a working group to brainstorm an idea or try to come up with an idea to more fully develop? It is a standard practice in most businesses. Yet studies have shown that the creative process is best assisted not by some peristaltic group session, but rather in the idles between any such serious attempts. And since much of running is managed by our reptilian lower brain — we don’t have to think, “right foot, left foot, breathe in, breathe out” — through the act itself our higher intellect is offered unfettered freedom to roam the labyrinth of undifferentiated thoughts and feelings marking the territory of our conscious and unconscious selves.
This understanding is well-travelled ground for any avid runner. The very act itself is like a meditation, an auto-pilot physicality that releases the right-side brain to wander and jog at its whim through the millions of latent potentialities that exist among the billions of neurons firing in the furnace of the brain. As such, fitness can become our emancipator, often reordering heretofore unconnected patterns and henids into crystalline ideas or decisions. So, too, does this exist in the realm of racing. Continue reading
I just finished watching an undistinguished 1957 horse opera called The Big Land starring Alan Ladd and Virginia Mayo on Turner Classic Movies. (It’s a low-key Saturday). The movie tells the story of a group of farmers in post-Civil War Kansas teaming up with some Texas cattlemen bringing their herds north as together they hope to create a large and diverse enough new market to convince the Kansas Pacific Railroad to build a spur off its Kansas City line to handle the new town’s business.
It’s a good strategy, but also a major threat to a sinister Missouri cattle buyer who holds a monopoly on the current market and tightly controls the prices paid to the Texas ranchers. So when the new town begins to get built and another group of cattle buyers are brought in to bid on the herds about to arrive, the ruthless Missouri buyer rides in a gang of hired guns to intimidate the town folk and the new buyers.
Without any law enforcement in the new town the hired guns kill one of the Chicago buyers and also Edmond O’Brien, Alan Ladd’s business partner and the town father. The cattle buyers from Omaha, Chicago and Cincinnati are properly cowed and prepare to flee, meaning the demise of the new enterprise. Not until Aland Ladd returns from Texas with his herd to face down the bad guys does he get the girl, and give the new town its chance for a prosperous future. It’s the Wild West in all its 1950s Hollywood Technicolor re-creation.
We might as well be talking about the modern day sport of track and field, minus the Alan Ladd character. Continue reading
I’ve never met you, but I have always been a fan. The excitement generated by your come-from-behind racing has lifted more than one arena to its collective feet, none more so than at the 2008 Olympic Trials 800-meter final in Eugene, Oregon. Just this week, however, you entered another arena, politics, by creating a Facebook page called I’m tired of USATF and IAAF crippling our sport. And as I’m sure you’ll find out soon enough, this may be an even harder track to succeed on than the Mondo version you’ve zoomed to four national 800-meter titles atop.
You know you’ve struck a nerve when, in just two days, your Symmond’s summons has attracted nearly 5000 on-line friends as you outlined your main bone of contention: “Could someone please explain to me why NASCAR drivers can have literally DOZENS of ads on their competition uniforms, cars, etc and track and field athletes are FORBIDDEN to have ANY corporate logo on their warm-ups or competition uniforms? Track and field athletes are not even allowed to put corporate logos on the arms as temporary tattoos. These asinine rules have been created by our governing bodies USATF and IAAF and are crippling our sport by preventing the flow of dollars into it.”
Nick, there are literally thousands who share your frustration and concern. And there have been many attempts over the years to lift track and running into the public consciousness. All have failed. One reason, one you seemed to have overlooked, is that what you refer to as “these asinine rules created by our governing bodies” aren’t crippling THEIR sport, only yours. And that’s the point. Continue reading