Leaders of the U.S. track team designed a formula to distribute an extra $9 million in cash to top athletes and also took steps to clarify language in a much-debated form that runner Nick Symmonds refused to sign before this year’s world championships.
USA Track and Field worked with Olympians Dwight Phillips, Doc Patton and others over the weekend to create a funding model that will provide at least $10,000 for each athlete who qualifies for World Championships or the Olympics, with a chance for a $25,000 bonus for winning a gold medal. USATF said that, under the new formula, a top athlete who wins a national title and Olympic gold medal could earn up to $100,000 when all prize money is included.
That would not count money from other sponsorship contracts, which were at the heart of Symmonds’ boycott of this year’s world championships in Beijing.
Symmonds, sponsored by the Brooks shoe company, was unhappy with the language in USATF’s “statement of conditions” regarding when and where Nike-sponsored team apparel should be worn at World Championships. USATF CEO Max Siegel said the language of the contract will be changed, then reviewed and voted on at USATF’s annual meeting in December. He said Symmonds, who won the silver medal at 800 meters at the 2013 world championships, would have input into any changes if he attends the meeting.
At last weekend’s meeting, USATF brought in an attorney with ties to the NFL Players Association and other lawyers to discuss the contract.
“I commend Nick for building a platform, creating a dialogue,” Siegel said. “After the annual meeting, it will be absolutely clear what the requirements are.”
On the money side, Siegel has negotiated a long-term deal with Nike worth about $20 million per year through 2040. One of the CEO’s key initiatives is to increase funding for athletes. The additional $9 million in funding will be distributed over five years.
Siegel, who came to USATF after spending several years working in NASCAR, said he knows the value of sponsorships and trying to make a sport more lucrative.
“If there’s anybody who understands the need to pay athletes, it’s me,” he said. “But the money’s got to come from somewhere.”
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