By Ken Reed

Nick Symmonds, an American champion runner in the 800 meters and one of track and field’s most outspoken athletes, has announced he will retire from the track at the end of the 2017 outdoor season.

Symmonds was a two-time Olympian, a six-time United States outdoor champion at 800 meters and a silver medalist at the 2013 world championships in Moscow.

But he was just as well known as an activist for athletes’ marketing rights and for being an advocate for gay rights, gun control and other socio-political positions.

Symmonds’ fight for social and economic justice for track and field athletes is admirable. I’ve enjoyed his contributions to the “marketplace of ideas” on these subjects.

While I might not agree with all of his stances, I admire him for the courage needed to take them. The great American distance runner, Steve Prefontaine, pushed the envelope in some of these areas as well.

I agree with Symmonds that the sport of track and field could definitely be marketed better. I also agree that it would really benefit the athletes to organize more effectively — and perhaps unionize — but the barriers are certainly huge.

Here’s hoping there are other track and field athletes willing and able to fight the battles that Symmonds has fought throughout his career.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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