Has the Music Stopped?

  • A few weeks ago we saw a relay team fail to compete in the team USA uniform and fail to earn a valuable opportunity to practice the exchange.
  • Several weeks before that Nick Symmonds was told to sign a contract that failed to provide an addendum mentioned in the contract. When he asked, he was told “you won’t go to World’s if you don’t sign it.”  That sounds like a threat to us.

These are two of the most recent examples that show that USATF continues create conflicts of interests that have real implications for the athletes.

These two incidents may seem unrelated, but they revolve around the same issue – sponsorship alignment.  Specifically, USATF currently asks athletes to sign a contract to compete on the national team that will place the athlete in breach of their respective sponsorships (assuming they are sponsored by the same company as USATF).  This is not a new issue.  This has been an accepted policy for over TWO DECADES.  Historically, other sponsors have begrudgingly accepted this as part of the price to have some relationship with track and field athletes.  An unwritten rule stated “we’re okay with you violating your contract for a national team event every now and then.”  The problem is USATF is now exploiting this unwritten rule to expand their national team opportunities, making it increasingly difficult for smaller companies to generate any positive return on investment from working with track and field athletes while creating more potential sponsorship conflicts with the athletes  But, of course, USATF is way more important than the athletes it purports to represent.  The end result:  FEWER endemic companies (shoe companies) will invest in track and field athletes and will move into road running because the sponsorship rules are lot more sponsor friendly.

We don’t want to put words into our members’ mouths, but do you think it’s a good idea to limit the number of sponsors in our primary category – sports apparel / shoe industry?  Do you think it’s going to hurt your ability to make money if “national team rules” continue to expand?  Those rules used to be limited to Olympic Trials and the duration of the Olympic Games.  The entire Olympic movement continues to expand the “black out” period and the number of national team events, thereby expanding the power and influence of the federations.  It doesn’t seem like a good idea to us and it certainly doesn’t seem like a good idea to agree to a contract when you don’t have the ability to influence the language of the contract.  Athletes do have choice!  You have to demand it though and you have stick to it!

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