I SAW JOHN CARLOS LAST WEEKEND

At the California Relays last weekend I ran into John Carlos. He was holding court in the lobby of the meet hotel and was regaling those present with sage and witty remarks about the sport and life and general. When he saw me he called me over and the following exchange took place:
Hey Brooks, I talked with your boy last night ( David Oliver 110M Hurdler ). I told him all about you. I told him about those parties you used to throw in Washington, D.C. after the meets.
John, did you tell him about the lights out parties ?
Hell yes ! I told him how when the party really started to swing and groove, I would go around and whisper in all the pretty little things’ ears not to leave. Then I would switch the lights on and off and announce that the party was over and ask all the people, especially the dudes,  to leave. When they would ask me where they were going to go that early, I would tell them, “Brother I do know or care where you go, but you got to leave from up in here.”.
Yeah and I remember telling you not to do it.
Yeah, but you didn’t say too much because you needed all the help you could get with your lame ass game. I made the odds better for you to get over with the ladies who stayed.
Yeah, you were right on that score at least.
Man, I was right on a lot of ( expletive ) ! You know that.
Yeah John I do. John, you were right on a lot of stuff.
During this exchange I had a flashback to 1968 and John and Tommie Smith standing on the Olympic victory podium in Mexico City with clenched fists stuffed into black gloves, raised into what some thought was a Black Power salute, while at the same time their heads were reverently bowed. I remember the first thought that flashed into my head, ” Those niggers are dead !!!”. That very same year we had lost Bobby Kennedy and Dr Martin Luther King Jr to assassins’ bullets. Five years earlier we had lost President John F. Kennedy to an assassin’s bullets. Bottom line, life was cheap for those who challenged the status quo and took strong stands for civil and human rights. This was the case even at the highest levels society and politics, where life was worth no more than the black powder and lead it took to take it. That being the case, there was no doubt in my mind that John and Tommie had essentially committed suicide. After realizing this, I can feel the tingle sensation that took over my spine. I can still feel my back getting straighter and more rigid in a defiant manner. I can still feel the vicarious pride now, as then, knowing these very talented and brave young men, in my sport, were taking a stand, at very extreme, and probably fatal, risks against those who would take away legitimate rights, guaranteed by the law and constitution.
In the case under consideration for this effort, the law simply is this: Article 220524, which is derived directly from the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act
of 1979, and subsequent amendments, states clearly and without ambiguity that National Governing Bodies ( USATF among others ) shall:
Keep …..ATHLETES informed of policy matters matters and REASONABLY reflect the VIEWS of the athletes in its policy DECISIONS” ( emphasis mine ).
This language is repeated verbatim from the Ted Stevens Act and repeated without modification or change as part of the Governance Manual of USA Track and Field. So it is patently clear that athletes are expected to be participants and have their views reflected in any policy decisions that impact them. But just the opposite has brazenly taken place. Not only have basic rights and privileges of athletes, guaranteed by the USATF constitution, been disrespected and disregarded,…. funds earmarked and designated for the exclusive use and allocation by athletes have been transferred to the General Fund with control of these funds now away from athletes and in the hands of the CEO.
What we need to do here is to speculate on a couple of things. Under the previous regime the USATF budget was approximately 15 million dollars a year which was generally, but barely, met . It has been reported that the new CEO has submitted a budget of approximately 21 million dollars.. The logical and compelling question is, “Where is the money coming from to get from 15 to 21 million ?”   Is some of that void and shortfall covered by funds that were originally awarded and earmarked for athletes ? There certainly have not been any new sponsorships brought in to the tune of 5-6 million ( the rationale for approval of the current CEO was,….. despite the fact he had absolutely no background in the sport , he was supposed to have a FORTUNE 500 rolidex that he would use to greatly increase USATF sponsorship dollars).
It has been reported that the USATF High Performance Center at Chula Vista had a budget for athlete support to the tune of $ 900,000.00.. The USATF administrators there only spent approximately 300-400 thousand with approximately $500,000.00 unspent. Was this money, that was earmarked for athletes , reverted to the USOC, or did it find its way back into the General Fund of USATF ?  Bottom line, if the report is true, that is half a million dollars that was intended for athletes,…. that athletes never saw. Some one needs to address the questions this report raises.. Keep in mind that USATF has committed about half a million dollars a year for new staff compensation and benefits who are responsible for the High Performance aspect of USATF, while at the same time virtually none of the NIKE Project 30/12 money ( one million ) has been spent or awarded to athletes as of a week or so ago. This despite the fact that the announcement of the funding was made last summer to much fanfare and promise.  It seems USATF is much better at committing money to new staff, as opposed to athletes for whom the funds were intended in the first place. If the funding was approved as of last summer, and athletes have been training since October/November, in most cases for 2010, then why is it the proposed NIKE 30/12 funding only retroactive to January of 2010 ?  Does that mean that October, November, and December do not count ? Or is it a ploy to save on three months worth of funding in order to get more athletes’ money into the General Fund ? What happens to any NIKE Project 30/12 funds that are not awarded ? Does that money revert to NIKE ? Does it carry over to the next year and increase the 2011 funding ? Or does it get stuffed into the General Fund to cover the shortfall for 2010 and beyond ?
These questions and many more need answers that are not forthhcoming. For example, when questioned by the head of the Athlete’s Advisory Committee if the new head of High Performance accepted the fact that the position was established to work FOR athletes, the response was NO, for the head of High Performance the position was established to work in the “best interests” of athletes.  The next question becomes, how can a person who has been out of the sport for more than two decades, who is directed by a person who self-admitted to ” knowing nothing about the sport”, really feel either one can determine what is ” in the best interests” of athletes without athletes’ input before, during and after policy decisions are made ? Keep in mind the law mandates that no such decisions can be made that do not “reasonably relfect the views of the athletes”. Can either one of these people honestly and credibly declare they know what is “best” for athletes separate and apart from input from athletes themselves as a pre-audit ? What kind of abject arrogance would allow a person to even entertain such a thought ?  For example, Adam Nelson attended an Ivy League un
iversity, he has a graduate degree from another prestigious university. He has Olympic and World Championships’ medals in the shot put. Is he so void of intelligence in general, or of his event in particular, that he should/would not be consulted about what is good for his event, BEFORE decisions are made about policies and programs regarding his event ? The obvious answer to this question is pertinent, pervasive, and compelling, and applies to events across the board in the sport. My good friend, George Williams, head coach at St Augustine’s College and the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team, frames it up very well.
If you are not in the hurdle, then you do not know the play !
At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of athletes to make sure that their rights and privileges are not abridged, misappropriated, or denied. In 2003 I saw an athlete lay down in the middle of the track at the World Championships in protest because he felt he was being unfairly singled out for unfair treatment . He was roundly criticized and chastised afterwards and took banishment from further competion at the meet. I remember feeling my spine tingle, and my back taking on a long lost erect attitude when he resorted to his last form of protest. When we met outside the stadium I shared with him my pride in the courage he demonstrated in taking on people who would arrogantly, arbitrarily and mistakenly deny him his rights. It is time for him and more athletes to look back and “see” John Carlos. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, that specifically addresses issues for non-profits like USATF, stresses as a federal mandate and charge that these non-profits conduct themselves with two very critical elements uppermost:
Accountability
Transparency
It is long overdue that athletes insist that the law be observed and their interests be served as per the law.
Stay tuned for more next time.
Brooks T. Johnson
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