Nick Symmonds is not a shy person. As the events of this week have shown, the 31-year-old entrepreneur and six-time U.S. 800-meter champion wants everyone to know about his latest dispute with USA Track & Field, the governing body of the sport in this country. In case you haven’t been paying attention, here’s a primer, plus a few juicy snippets from the wide world of Internet commentary.
The story, in brief:
After winning at the U.S. National Championships in late June, Symmonds earned one of three spots in the men’s 800 meters to be on the U.S. national team for the World Championships, which will take place in Beijing from August 22 to August 30.
In order to make the trip to Beijing, however, every member of the U.S. team had to sign a “Statement of Conditions” from USATF, which requires athletes to wear only Nike or unbranded apparel on the trip (Nike is the official sponsor of USATF).
A follow-up letter from the USATF, sent to all athletes, explains the sartorial regulations in greater detail:
You are required to wear the Nike Team USA apparel (includes under layer apparel, bandanas, headbands, hats, sweatbands, wristbands, socks, sports bras, travel bags, etc.; but shall exclude sunglasses, watches and shoes) at all team functions throughout the trip, including at the athlete hotel, during training, press conferences, competition, and award ceremonies. Accordingly, please pack ONLY Team USA, Nike, or non-branded apparel and be sure to bring your Team USA gear.
The deadline for submitting the paperwork, agreeing to these stipulations, was August 9. Citing the ambiguous language and poorly defined terms of the contract, indeed saying it was “a real dog turd” of a statement, Symmonds refused to sign. August 9 came and went. Symmonds lost his spot.
Having been on several U.S. teams in the past, Symmonds has long been familiar with the strict rules on athlete apparel. Until recently signing with Brooks, however, Symmonds was himself a Nike athlete and hence there was no conflict of interest on his part. Faced with the prospect of not being able to promote his sponsors during a high-profile international competition, something Symmonds has been outspoken about for years, he decided to take a stand this time around.
Before the August 9 deadline, Symmonds allegedly reached out to USATF and asked the governing body to clarify some of its more murky language, like what, specifically, counts as a “team function.” Was he really expected pack only Nike and non-branded gear?
“I want to be on this team and I want to come to a compromise,” Symmonds said at a FloTrack event this past weekend, on the eve of the deadline. “I’m a businessman who believes that you put everything in writing, you have a contract, and everybody knows what they are responsible for . . . I’m not for chaos. I understand the idea of a contract. But let’s make sure it’s a good contract . . . No one is bothering to negotiate with me.”
And it appears no one did. As it stands now, Symmonds will not be going to the World Championships this year.
Here’s what the web thinks about this:
Honestly, I think they just didn't want you to drape a Run Gum Flag as you walked through the streets during your USATF trip as a representative of Team USA. Remember, people do strange things with flags when they are on a world stage ... even using flags of another country. Not hard to see how they might be sensitive.
The letter was titled wrong. It should read Dear "Team Nike". Corporations rule government why not other organizations as well? What recourse does anyone have really?
This guy has trained for years and has earned a right to compete, but because he is not advertising for Nike he is left out.
If the USA wins any events they should be considered "Nike sponsored winners", not "world champions". At least one possible world champion is staying home.
If Nick Symonds wants to be a member of Team USA, then he is required to wear the apparel that Team USA provides. An example: Wayne Rooney plays for Manchester United and is sponsored by Nike. Manchester United just signed an Adidas deal. When Wayne Rooney is representing manchester United, he will be in Adidas. If Nick Symonds had decided that wearing Brooks is more important to him than representing his country, then shame on him. The letters USA and the flag on that Nike apparel he doesn't want to wear are far more important than the swoosh.
Of course this row provides far more publicity for Symonds and Brooks than running in the actual championship. Also under the 'no such thing as bad publicity' meme Nike are also getting tons of free advertising. Win win all round.
Symmonds said that he hoped his stance would eventually help improve athletes’ rights and would be “a small sacrifice for the greater good.”
Bravo Nick Symmonds!
I don't know nick symmonds tbh.
—Arsene Venga's Red And White Army