Limiting the Pumped Up Kicks

With the Olympics starting in nine days, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) has been in the news quite a bit, but not always in the best light.  Apparently, its recent announcements about the Team USA attire has not been received the way they had been anticipating.

Last week, there was some ruckus over the origins of the Team USA Opening Ceremonies uniforms (hint: they were not made in America). But we will not dwell on that.

Instead, we will highlight the USOC announcement made earlier this month that all Team USA athletes who earn a spot on the podium must wear USOC attire, including footwear. Most people who will be watching the games will probably not understand why this is an issue with most athletes. But when major news outlets report that just 50 percent of professional track and field athletes earn more than $15,000 per year, people should realize that these athletes need financial help in order to achieve their gold medal dreams. This typically comes in the form of an athletics-company sponsorship (i.e. Nike, Adidas, Saucony, Riadha, Li-Ning, New Balance, Under Armor, etc.) as there is currently no federal-based assistance for Olympic athletes within the United States.

Adam Nelson, a two-time silver Olympic medalist in the shot put, is not happy about this USOC announcement. He knows first-hand of how difficult it is to train and compete with limited financial resources (we profiled his struggles in an earlier blog entry). Nelson wrote about his opinion about the USOC announcement on the Track and Field Athletes Association (TFAA) blog on July 5th:

“As I sit here writing this, I’m fuming over the latest fumble by [USOC]. Just this past week, you announced that all athletes must wear USOC sponsor footwear on the awards podium. Do you know that most apparel sponsors of Olympic athletes place value on even the remote chance that one of their athletes will wear their shoes on the podium? Did you know that this rule diminishes the value of every U.S. athlete in the sport of track and field? Are you prepared to compensate the athletes and the sport of track and field should sponsors begin to cut already tight sports marketing budgets?”

“This rule will have a long-term impact on Olympic athletes in the U.S., because these non-Olympic partners pay athletes when you don’t. The Adidas, Asics, Brooks, Li-Ning, New Balance, Nike, Reebok, Saucony, and Under Armor’s (and I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few) are there for us when you’re not. No, I know you think you’re there for the athletes, but you’re not. These sponsors and the NCAA provide most of the direct support to athletes. Without their commitment to these sports, few athletes would be able to continue past high school.”

TFAA is an organization that supports professional track and field athletes, particularly in the realms of athletes’ rights and benefits. Anyone can join as a supporting member to help support the athletes and spread the word about the group.

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