Chaos at USATF Convention as Athletes Make Good Progress on Logo Restrictions
By Weldon Johnson, LetsRun.com
December 2, 2011
Pro track and field athletes led by Nick Symmonds, Lauren Fleshman and Adam Nelson amongst others are trying to get the ridiculously restrictive USATF uniform guidelines changed at the USATF annual convention which started yesterday in St. Louis.
Today chaos descended upon the Athlete Advisory Committee Meeting where athletes were meeting with shoe industry reps to discuss the uniform guidelines. The meeting was streamed on the internet without the participants' knowledge. When that was discovered, people got really upset, there was yelling, the meeting got shut down, and there was a bit of chaos as it blew up on twitter as much as a USATF Convention can blow up on twitter.
I wasn't there so I reached out to Becca Gillespy Peter of polevaultpower.com who has been instrumental in trying to get the USATF uniform restrictions changed. She is at the USATF Convention and reported back to me what happened today. While the twittersphere was focused on the chaos at the meeting, all in all from my perspective in talking to Becca it seems like the athletes are making a lot of progress and today was a good day for them. So I'll report on the gains the athletes made and then the chaos at the meeting because I don't know of the chronological order of everything.
The rules restrict athletes to having two logos on the athlete's singles:
1) one logo of the manufacturer of the apparel (thus no non apparel company logos)
2) one logo for the athlete's club
There are size restrictions (they generally have to be fairly small) and placement restrictions (the club logo can only be tiny and in the corner, which is not how most clubs screen their jerseys).
Athletes have been upset that they can't have any non manufacturer ("shoe") company logos. For a struggling athlete who can't get a sponsor, not being able to venture outside of the shoe companies is a just concern. The shoe company's generally like the restrictions because it restricts competition in the sponsorship arena and also keeps the sponsorship with the jersey. (It's not a singlet with a Nike logo on it, it's a Nike singlet).
Good News from the IAAF: Their Uniform Restrictions Will Allow Second Logo in 2012
At today's meeting Bob Hersh of the US who is an IAAF Vice-President spoke to the athletes about the IAAF's new uniform restrictions for 2012. He had surprisingly good news. He said that effectively immediately in 2012, athletes under IAAF rules will be allowed to have a second corporate logo, in the location that can currently only be occupied by a club logo. This can be pretty much anything, it does not have to be a shoe/apparel company.
So if USATF continues to follow IAAF uniform rules for its national championships then athletes would be allowed to have two logos starting January 1st. One medium sized step for athlete rights.
In investigating the USATF logo rules, Becca and others discovered that the USATF guidelines are not actually in the USATF rulebook and that USATF does not have to follow the IAAF logo restrictions at its national championships.
So a motion has been put forth by David Greifinger (Santa Monica Track Club, Counsel to USATF Board of Directors) that all the USATF delegates will vote on Sunday that says at its national championships USATF can only enforce rules that are in its rulebook (Becca does not have the latest version of Greifinger's resolution, but an earlier one is here). If that's the case, the logo restrictions will be out the door entirely. If the rule does not pass, if the new IAAF rules are followed in 2012, athletes will be able to have the second, non-shoe company logo. Tremendous progress from where we are today and have been for decades.
Also, Becca reported good news that USATF interim CEO Mike McNees has taken action per the recommendation of the Club Council to prevent the "uniform guidelines" from being enforced at next week's USATF Club Championships.
Chaos in the AAC Meeting
Now to the AAC meeting that caused quite a stir on the twittersphere. Reps from some of the shoe companies that support the current rules were to meet with the Athletes Advisory Committee of USATF. There were non Athletes Advisory Committee people like Becca in the room as well. She says she was invited and it was advertised as an open meeting. Someone had their laptop open and via the wonders of free streaming service Ustream.tv was streaming the meeting live on the internet without telling the participants. Flotrack.org embedded the stream and eventually Nike's John Capriotti, who was one of the people from Nike at the meeting, got word it was being streamed live on the internet without his knowledge. He got upset, walked out, the meeting was stopped, and everyone not on the AAC was kicked out of the meeting. (Update: We've received an email from someone in St. Louis who said Capriotti in his job with Nike is not allowed to speak publicly on this. We also received an email saying, "Let your editor know the AAC closing the meeting was the bush league move. All meetings of USATF are open to the registered members in attendance, unless otherwise advertised as being closed for executive session. The only exception is a 75% vote of the committee members to close the meeting. There is no prohibition to video streaming to the public, as they cannot alter discussion within the meeting by talking or voting. Open meeting laws apply, as USATF is a 501c3 non-profit corporation.") That is when the athletes posted like crazy on twitter and people following the convention on twitter went nuts, although apparently not that many people (42 according to this tweet, not sure if that is a joke or not) were actually watching the live stream. That's when I started getting texts about it.
However, with the IAAF rule already reportedly changed and a chance for the USATF delegates to remove the guidelines entirely in Sunday's vote, a lot of progress is being made despite the drama at the AAC meeting.
I'm still shocked the IAAF on its own made a rule to let the athletes have a second logo on their jersey. Who thought USATF moves slower than the IAAF?
A couple of caveats. First, the Olympic Trials operate under US Olympic Committee rules which are completely different so things may not change for the 2012 Olympic Trials. The IAAF size restrictions will still be in place for IAAF meets. And shoe companies can of course still strike contracts with athletes saying they can only have one logo which we expect many of them to do. So Puma might say to Usain Bolt, "For the millions we pay you, you're going to be the only logo on your jersey." Kind of like Nike and Tiger Woods. The key difference is the athletes will have the choice to look for additional sponsorships which is long overdue. And for struggling athletes more options can only help.
Update: Glad I'm not crazy. The Athletes Association saw today as a positive.
Thanks to Becca for her help. If you're at the convention and want to share your views email me. I'm curious if anyone is trying to do anything about the field sizes at USA Nationals.
PPS From The Editor and not Weldon: A total bush league move by whoever decided to stream the AAC meeting live without telling anyone.