The U.S.’ preeminent 800m runners are not going to the World Track and Field Championships for vastly different reasons.
Nick Symmonds, the 2013 World silver medalist, has been left off the U.S. team for the Beijing meet (Aug. 22-30) following a dispute over a contract requiring athletes to wear Nike-branded Team USA gear at team functions.
Ajee Wilson, the third-fastest female 800m runner in the world this year, is out due to injury, according to a tweet from her agent’s account.
Symmonds, the U.S. champion who is not sponsored by Nike, said Thursday he would not sign the contract and would sue USA Track and Field if it left him off the team, according to Sports Business Daily.
USATF said Symmonds’ absence from the World Championships roster was the runner’s decision, according to a statement Monday released in conjunction with the full U.S. roster.
We respect Nick’s decision not to represent the United States at the IAAF World Championships.
The Statement of Conditions is part of USATF’s governance documents, and its requirements are common in professional, Olympic and National Team sports, both domestically and internationally. It has been in place for years, and athletes and agents are familiar with the provisions of the document, which include requirements pertaining to athlete conduct as goodwill ambassadors for the United States, proper handling of the American flag, wearing the designated Team uniform at official Team functions, attendance at official Team practices, meetings and other events, commitment to train and report fit to compete, and following doping rules.
The only restriction USATF places on athletes’ apparel or appearance at any time is when they represent the United States in National Team competitions, award ceremonies, official Team press conferences, and other official Team functions tied to these National Team events. USATF places no restrictions on athlete footwear, eyewear or watches. As part of USATF’s bylaws, the Statement of Conditions must be signed by all athletes who compete for Team USA, and it cannot be unilaterally changed or waived by any USATF officer.
USATF has been in active and regular discussions with athlete leadership for more than a year about the definition, benefits and obligations of professional athletes in the sport. Our dialog with Nick and his representatives over the last week has added to the discussion.
USATF annually invests more than 50 percent of our total revenue directly in athlete support, and that amount is growing. As we continue to increase our financial investment in athletes, we appreciate the input and collaboration of athlete leaders and advocates on better defining what it means to be a professional track and field athlete in the United States. We look forward to continuing to expand our programs for athletes, and we hope to see Nick on future National Teams.
The document Symmonds did not sign included this language:
I will dress appropriately and respectfully for all “official” Team functions, wearing the designated Team uniforms provided by USATF. I understand that USATF’s sponsor contract for uniforms depends upon athletes wearing the uniform and using the uniform items at competitions, award ceremonies, “official” Team press conferences, and other “official” Team functions, and that I shall not participate in any of these activities with a logo of any competitor of USATF’s sponsor affixed to me in any manner whatsoever.
Symmonds has been sponsored by Brooks and not Nike since January 2014.
“They’re dumb enough to leave me home,” Symmonds said, according to The Associated Press, of USATF after learning he wasn’t on the team Sunday night.
Nike and USA Track and Field have a sponsorship deal through 2040.
“My concern is that … how far back can they go?” Symmonds said of USATF, according to Sports Business Daily. “If they wanted to, they could say I have to wear Nike from the moment that I make the team at USAs, and then all of a sudden they’re buying up the entire season. USATF and Nike are just taking way too much of the pie, so far as to violate my rights as an athlete.”
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