Nick Symmonds announced on Sunday night, via social media platform Twitter.com, that he had been left off of the U.S.A. roster for the World Championships later this month in Beijing.
Proud to have stood my ground and fought another battle for athletes' rights. A huge thank you to the media and fans for all your support.— Nick Symmonds (@NickSymmonds) August 10, 2015
That proof came in the form of a guest post for the Huffington Post in which he paints a (familiar) picture of the USATF as an intransigent organization concerned far more about profit than the sport. By now, we have all, of course, heard that the dispute--which Symmonds outlines in his post--concerned a clause in the USATF Statement of Conditions requiring athletes to wear Nike apparel in all "official team USA appearances," a term that USATF interprets in the broadest possible terms.
In an appearance on the FloTrack Track After Dark podcast last night, Simmonds clarified the reason he didn't sign the Statement of Conditions centered around a directive he received from USATF to not even pack non-Nike apparel for his trip to Beijing. The World Championships are not about a single brand or even a national organization; they are about the athletes. Reasonable track fans should be frustrated that the former, i.e. brands and a national organization, have stood in the way of the latter, i.e., Nick Symmonds, getting a chance to compete on the highest stage.
Symmonds is sponsored by Brooks, so signing that agreement would possibly conflict with his obligations to his sponsor. A number of other athletes who presumably have signed that agreement are also non-Nike athletes. Among those are Jenny Simpson, Leo Manzano and Robby Andrews. So, while Symmonds should be praised for standing up to Nike's hegemony over U.S. Track and Field, it is disappointing that no other athletes have joined him.
Sure, most anyone who is anyone has sent out a tweet or two of support for his resolve, but no one else has supported those sentiments with actions. Change clearly needs to be made at the USATF level with regards to sponsorship and revenue-sharing, as Symmonds outlines in his Huffington Post statement, but none of them will ever occur if he is left to fight this battle on his own. While it's nice to see someone stand up to USATF, it would be even nicer if others would join to give Symmonds's efforts a chance of succeeding.
2015 hasn't been the best season of Symmonds's career, but he still represented the United States's best hope at an 800 medal in Beijing. His strong kick typically plays well in more tactical championship races, particularly in preliminary rounds. Instead, he'll likely be staying home chewing RunGum and running beer miles instead of competing for a medal.
Symmonds has said that he will be in conversations with various lawyers to explore possible options. It's nearly certain we haven't heard the last from Symmonds on this matter, and perhaps we will still see him line up in a Team USA singlet in the 800m in Beijing.
AJEE WILSON OUT OF WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS WITH INJURY
As if Symmonds's exclusion from Beijing wasn't enough of a blow to the U.S. hopes of medalling in the 800m, it was announced yesterday that Ajee Wilson, who holds the fastest 800m time by an American in 2015, has a tibial stress reaction and will not race in two weeks.
Wilson is the 3rd fastest 800m runner in the world in 2015 with her 1:57.87 time from the Pre Classic in May. The U.S. medal hopes in the Women's 800 now falls to Brenda Martinez, Alysia Montano, and Molly Beckwith-Ludlow. Ludlow, who will take the spot vacated by Wilson, actually has the 2nd fastest American time in the 800 (1:58.68) that she ran in July. She's the 6th-fastest woman in the event this year.