March 9, 2015
Below is a copy of a letter sent by USATF President Stephanie Hightower to Law and Legislation Chairman Tim Baker after the USATF annual meeting in December, where Baker spoke out and was “critical” about recent USATF decisions. Below that is an email sent to Hightower from USATF Youth Chairman Lionel Leach in response to Hightower’s letter to Baker. The email was posted in this thread by Becca Gillespy of PoleVaultPower.com.
Email from Lionel Leach to Stephanie Hightower:
Dear President Hightower,
As I lay in bed on Sunday, March 8, 2015, I was reminded of the great sacrifices that Martin Luther King, Jr., Congressman John Lewis, and 600 others made to register African-Americans voters in the south. As you know, 50 years ago this past Saturday protesters attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery only to encounter violent resistance by state and local officials and law enforcement. This day is known as Bloody Sunday.
Alabama state troopers wielding whips, nightsticks and tear gas threatened and attacked the marchers. Governor Wallace refused to protect the marchers and allowed the attack to take place, making this day one of the most disturbing days in our nations history. Wallace believed in discrimination, disenfranchisement, and plain bullying. We all recognize bullying as the use of superior strength or influence to intimidate those who are weaker and to force them to do the bullys bidding.
In the wake of this seminal American moment, a half century later, I am saddened to say I have heard about and then read a disturbing letter that makes our governor, Bully Supreme Chris Christie of the great state of New Jersey, look like an angel. You see, I have witnessed bullying in all its forms. Every day the members in the union I represent are bullied by their bosses all day long. I dont let them get away with it, and I most certainly will not allow it to happen in the USATF, the organization I love most in the world.
Our good friend Timothy Baker received a letter from you that was offensive, disrespectful and downright abusive. It was Bullying 101, intended to intimidate Mr. Baker to do what you want. He was shaken by this threat and I am appalled to know that you would send this travesty to him.
Mr. Baker has been a pioneer in the sport for several decades, from his time as meet director of the Penn Relays to his time on the Law and Legislation committee. As you wrote in the first line of your letter to him, You have a long history of contributions to USATF, and I appreciate your active engagement in USATF committee efforts in particular. In the face of that acknowledgement, how you can write such an abusive letter to him is astounding at best and intolerable at worst. This is the same man who spent thousands of dollars of his own money for your election nine years ago and got people to sign your petitions for you can become a candidate. He has been a loyal and dedicated solider for you for years; and, just because he holds a different belief than yours about the direction of the organization, you think you are allowed to write a letter like this to bully him.
You are right, the organization has seen tremendous growth both in membership and in revenue, and this came about from the tremendous work and the volunteerism of thousands of hard working members of USATF. In fact, in the youth program alone we have seen an increase of over 30,000 new members in the last 8 years. The growth in revenue has resulted directly from Maxs hard work to bring home the bacon, which helps our committees develop the tools to get the job done. By comparison, you have been little more than a bystander. In fact, you have divided this organization into the Haves and the Have-Nots. I dare say that Maxs legacy to the USATF far outdistances what you will leave.
As a constituent leader, I have an obligation to this organization and to the youth membership better known by all as my 85,000 babies to protect their rights, and to make this sport of track and field better than the way I found it. And I know Mr. Baker wants the same; but, your reckless behavior and bullying tactics with folks who do not see eye-to-eye with you are not in the best interest of track and field as a whole. Although he did not vote, Mr. Baker was not acting any differently than the 85 percent who have disagreed with you, in every voting session of the Law and Legislation committee.
I fear that you are starting to believe that as long as people disagree with you, they are not doing what is in the best interest of USATF. I fear that you are starting to rule like a dictator instead of respecting the democratic process, which has defined our organization for longer than I can remember.
Your goals are different from the goals of the rest of the organization. Its all right to disagree, but it is not all right to use your position as president of this organization to BULLY and intimidate anyone, let alone loyal and dedicated members of this great organization.
You are probably wondering why I am writing this letter to you and responding rather than Mr. Baker himself. I am writing this letter because I will not allow anyone to be bullied in any way whatsoever. The letter you wrote to Mr. Baker is offensive, plain and simple. This man has worked too hard for this sport and deserves to be treated with greater respect than you have shown him. If you decide to remove him from the committee, as he was your appointment, that is certainly your choice. However, this is not your committee and this should not be a case of agree with me or else.
In closing, this organization is called USATF not Ms. Hightower Track and Field. How dare you send this man a letter in this tone. The tone of this letter reminds me of October 20, 1973; it was known as the Saturday Night Massacre. That was the night when President Richard Nixon dismissed special prosecutor Archibald Cox and asked for the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus during the Watergate scandal. As memory serves, President Nixon was removed from office as a result of his abuse of power.
You may view that as a threat or a history lesson. Either way, I dont care. What I do care about is the integrity and leadership of USATF; hopefully, you will find it in your heart to display more of both.
Yours in Track,
Lionel A. Leach/
USATF Youth Chairman