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Nick Symmonds Sells Shoulder for over $20K

His right shoulder, it turns out, is worth more than his left.

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Symmonds is at it again. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing depends entirely on your temperament, but one thing is certain: Symmonds is consistent in his brand. He has long been concerned with increasing sponsorship opportunities for athletes and fighting restrictions, whether imposed by USATF or the IAAF, on an athlete's ability to advertise for his sponsors during competition. Last summer, Symmonds went so gar as to decline an opportunity to compete at the World Championships over a dispute over the USATF contract requiring him to wear Nike apparel at all team functions.

Last Olympic cycle, Symmonds auctioned off advertising space on his left shoulder for $11,100 to Hanson Dodge Creative, a marketing agency. That left shoulder is not the property of RunGum, so he auctioned his right shoulder this year. You can check out his eBay listing for the "item" of his right shoulder here. The posting is worth checking out, especially since it lists his planned competition schedule for the season.

In theory, the right shoulder should be more valuable advertising space that the left. On a track, the right shoulder is always facing outward toward the cameras, meaning that during a race a logo on the right side of an athlete would receive constant camera time. However, as Symmonds notes in his item posting, he is required to cover any advertisements or logos:

Due to antiquated rules, during all IAAF, USOC, and IOC governed competitions, I will be forced to tape over all forms of advertising on my body except the logos of my apparel and equipment manufacturers. Though these absurd rules certainly diminish an investment in an athlete, please know that I will put in extra effort to ensure that the winner of this auction realizes a fantastic return on investment.

Four years after selling his left shoulder for over $11,000, Symmonds' right shoulder went for $21,800 (with free shipping). That prime real estate on the shoulder of a likely Olympic athlete went for so little--$20,000 is chump change in professional athletics--speaks to Symmonds' contention that the rules in place around sponsorships and advertising are significantly diminishing an athlete's earning potential. Can you imagine how much a company would pay for 9 square inches of Steph Curry's arm or the barrel of Mike Trout's bat? It would easily be seven figures and might even end up going for more.

Instead, Symmonds is left with $21,800. That number can be read as either an indictment of the popularity of track and field or of the affect the requirement that Symmonds cover the tattoo has on his ability to attract valuable sponsorships. In reality, it's a little bit of both. Even if Symmonds could display his tattoo in competition, he would be less valuable than Steph Curry because more people are watching the NBA than a track meet or even the Olympics.

Still, you have to figure that prime-time advertising space during the Olympics would be worth more than $21,800. Symmonds should be at least bringing in 10 times what he did, which, really, only proves his point.