Today, we start with some upsetting news over the lack of awareness in the general international community with regard to professional US track and field. The author attended an annual IEG Sponsorship Conference, where he learned that despite the substantial success US track and field achieves, it is globally unknown (outside of the track and field world). The conference, full of ” sports executives, marketers, sponsorship agency professionals, event producers, non-profits and corporate sponsors,” was equally filled with people who had no idea professional track and field existed in the United States. I find it a little ridiculous that nobody knew about US track and field – after all, the U.S. Indoor National Championship controversies lit up sports news for the past month. In fact, you’ll see in the next article that the Wall Street Journal finally picked up the story (although they did not get it all correct). Moreover, the continuing feud between USATF and the Track & Field Athletes Association (TFAA) provides more opportunities for US track and field to remain in the news (albeit negative). What’s going on here?
The conclusion is clear: USATF has not done enough for its athletes in terms of transparency and its promotion of the sport. USATF is content with where it is at, and it will stay at the status quo because it has done little to change anything significant. This explains why it continues to employ the silent treatment (or cookie-cutter responses that say nothing) to TFAA and any media outlet looking for answers. The recent controversies provoked US track and field athletes to question “whether competing in a national championship meet is really worth it,” and is questioning their sponsors as well. Obviously, competing in any national championship has amazing benefits. “But creating the infrastructure of a professional track & field industry – e.g., marketing, events, strategic relationships, owned media, consumer-fans – will alter the power structure in three key ways:
- The disproportionate role of national championship events will be reduced through more events featuring more athletes engaging more fans.
- A professional track & field industry will sever the influence of the national governing body over professional athletes because – by law – the NGB has no authority over professional athletes, sports or events.
- Teams and athletes will be able to offer their partners the continuous, performance-indepdent engagement that is essential to connect brands, properties and audiences. No more 4-year cycle that benefits 3 athletes per event. No more “non-world’s” year caveats. Fans and partners will experience the sport the way we do: Day-in, day-out. Every. Damn. Day.”
The author learned that in order to bring in more fans, attract more sponsors and maintain the “professional sport worthy of our athletes,” a new creation must occur. I have read about discussions and meetings to address this “new creation” for the past few years – last year, there was talk of including betting and alcohol at track meets – but so far, nothing groundbreaking occurred. US track and field has a world of success few know about, even in our own country. Perhaps creating a new track and field industry that better caters to athletes’ needs will convince USATF to become a better national governing body, or to shut it down completely and begin anew. It will take work, but it is possible to bring greater focus and attention on the sport, both nationally and internationally.
The Wall Street Journal made a grave error in its title, “Nike Runs Into Trouble on the Track” in its paper yesterday when describing the controversies of USATF’s disqualifications of Gabe Grunewald and Andrew Bumbalough at the most recent US Indoor National Championship in March. The writer’s title suggested that the controversy saw it as a Nike issue, when in reality it is a USATF issue. An article in letsrun.com corrects WSJ by rephrasing the issue as “USATF not caring about the integrity of the sport and not having a system that treats all athletes and coaches equally at national championships.” The sole statement USATF made on the incidents that happened over a month ago was this: “the topics related to Alburquerque are not quick fixes.” The article vehemently opposes this comment by contrasting the simple mistake USATF made with the way the NBA handled its recent mistake. Here’s the comparison: “2 nights ago, the NBA refs made the incorrect call on a goal tending call in overtime of the Dallas Mavericks – Golden State Warriors game with huge playoff implications. The NBA the next day issued a statement saying it was the wrong call.” It was a short statement which acknowledged fault – they might receive a little heat for the bad call, but you won’t see people dwelling over the problems dramatically for over a month…because the problem is solved.
It has been 40 days since the two incidents occurred at the 2014 US Indoor National meet, and the track and field world will not give up until justice occurs. The article notes that WSJ’s picking up of the story may provoke USATF to “get its act together” now that the article debuted in a widely read newspaper. Shamefully, if USATF does act after this negative publicity, it will further demonstrate their disconnect with its athletes, and that it only cares about itself. Threatened boycotts achieved nothing thus far; there is no word on boycotting the USATF National meet, but the possibility lingers.
Turning to some positive news this morning, we learn that the IOC’s Coordination Commission is very pleased with Tokyo’s preparations for the 2020 Summer Olympics. Perhaps they should teach Rio how to adequately prepare for the Olympic Games.
The IOC has conducted some serious reshuffling of its executives thanks to its president Thomas Bach. His initiatives will hopefully lead to better international sporting events.
The 2022 Olympic race has become riddled with controversy since Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov, “a close ally of Vladimir Putin,” was appointed to head the IOC Evaluation Commission responsible for choosing the 2022 Winter Olympic host. I guess that means Lviv in the Ukraine can kiss its bid good-bye, since Zhukov already expressed his negative sentiment toward Lviv…not to mention the recent events between Russia and the Ukraine still ongoing.
Finally, here’s an interesting piece on how the Boston Marathon received its name (spoiler alert: nobody really knows for sure).