By Ken Reed
Nick Symmonds, two-time Olympian and American champion in the 800 meters, is on a mission. His goal is to greatly increase awareness and understanding regarding the raw deal track and field athletes are getting — in the United States and internationally.
The life of the typical professional track athlete is much different than the life of the typical NFL, NBA or MLB athlete. In fact, most track and field athletes are living below the poverty line.
Symmonds, an athlete-activist extraordinaire, wants people to know how badly the IOC, USOC, USATF and other governing bodies in the sport of track and field are screwing the athletes that make the product. Here’s an example: In the NBA, athletes get approximately a 50% share of revenues. Meanwhile, the USATF only shares about 8% with its track and field athletes. The USATF also severely limits the sponsorship deals individual athletes can make.
“They’re making billions of dollars pimping us out to their sponsors and we make nothing from it. This model is based on antiquity…. When they brought in pros… they never bothered to share that money with the athletes. The time has come….”
For Symmonds this isn’t a one-time or short-time project.
“I’ve shown to the world that this body can run two laps in a minute and 42 seconds. But that’s not what gets me out of bed in the morning… the platform… the changes I’m trying to make, that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.”
Samuel Proctor, a writer for isportsweb, makes a good case for Symmonds as track and field’s leading athletes’ rights activist.
“Nick Symmonds has made many good points, and has brought attention to a topic that needs it. Elite runners function in a very tough climate. The governing bodies heavily regulate the athletes’ ability to generate their own income off sponsors and businesses while not doing much in the way of providing for the athletes. For example, the USATF only shares approximately 8 percent of its gross revenue with athletes according to a study conducted by sports economist, Andrew Zimbalist, which is dismal compared to the NBA and its revenue sharing of approximately 50%.
“To the average person, Nick Symmonds appears to just be another professional athlete complaining. The truth is, Symmonds is one of the many talented athletes who is training and competing at an outstanding level, but is treated like a cash cow by the governing body of track and field. It’s wrong that most runners are living under the poverty line; this is not a boy crying wolf. Nick Symmonds is going to be the athlete that triggered a movement that bettered the livelihoods of all runners. Nick Symmonds will most likely be rejected by many people in his generation, as well as businessmen and women of this current time, but he will be revered and thanked by all rising runners.”
To get a better feel for this economic injustice, I strongly urge you to take thirteen minutes to listen to an excellent interview the articulate and passionate Symmonds did with Oregonian sports columnist John Canzano.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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