(an open letter from former Team USA member Cliff Wiley, who is now active in USATF)
My fellow members,
Pastor Martin Niemöller said:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”
I have stood on the sideline quietly as this matter has deteriorated to the point of embarrassment. Maybe I didn't say anything because I didn't want to offend my friends on the USATF Board; or maybe I remained silent because the issue didn't merit space on my plate, which as an Association president is all to full with local issues. Or maybe I just believed that anyone with half a brain could have mediated the Athletics.net dispute to a win win conclusion. After the recent suspensions of the Youth Executive Board and its chair, I can't remain silent because to do so would indicate that I approve of the action taken by our Board of Directors.
Only Lionel Leach's name was mentioned in the press release I received, so here is a list of the other suspended members. Combined they have over 200 years of contribution to our sport, and the list reads like a who's who of USA Track and Field:
Henry McCullum: The person most responsible for the development of the Prince Georgia Sports and Learning Complex; member Potomac Valley Association.
Inez Finch: President of the Georgia Association; member Georgia Association.
Jacqueline White: President of the Oklahoma Association, and race walk advocate; member Oklahoma Association.
Prof. Ken Ferguson: Professor of law, sports law expert, and the person responsible for reviving the Missouri Valley Association from near extinction; member Missouri Valley Association.
Mary Elizabeth Aude: USATF President's Award Recipient, Vice president Montana Association; member Montana Association.
Linda Ellis: Youth Chair; member South Carolina Association.
Marc Jones: Youth Chair, member Illinois Association.
Ronald Mascarenas: Zone Representative; member New Mexico Association.
David Reinhardt: President of the Niagara Association; member Niagara Association.
Norine Richardson: Retired judge; member Arizona Association.™ A
Dorothy Dawson: Words can't describe her contributions to the sport of track and field; member Illinois Association.
I have been a member of this organization since its was founded. I served on the AAC when I was an elite athlete. I think I ran on 13 national teams, and maybe a few that I have forgotten. I served on both the men's and women's track and field committees, and was proud to work with dedicated chairs who cared about our sport. I served on the Law and Legislation Committee with some of the smartest people I have ever known. I even had the opportunity to serve as a national Vice President, and got to know many of the people whose shoulders this organization stands on today. In all of my years, in all the disagreements I have seen, I have never witnessed the rights of members trampled on as has occurred with these suspensions. I am calling them suspensions but they are actually summary expulsions. Nowhere is this kind of conduct authorized by our by-laws, in fact the opposite is true.
It is difficult for me to accept that the organization that has been so much a part of my life for the past 38 years, now resembles a third world dictatorship, where elected representatives can be charged, convicted and sentenced without a hearing. Somehow we have become an organization where our Board of Directors are willing to ignore the by-laws that govern all of us, to silence the voices of those who would dare speak out against their transgressions. This is the kind of thing we see in a B rated movie, where the junta declares an emergency, expels the opposing elected officials, then replaces them with poppets they can control.
It seems there are real differences between what our National Office and Board is telling people, and what the suspended members are saying, so I have attached a copy of the opinion letter from their attorney. It is my understanding that a formal complaint with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has been filed by the victims in this matter, but has USA Track and Field fallen to a level where an outside organization has to tell us the right thing to do? And if not the USOC then it will be a federal judge. A formal lawsuit is the last thing USATF needs, since it barely has recovered from black eye it took from the Runner's World article less than two years ago. Every memorandum, email, text message, contract, and letter between our vendors, sponsors, employees, volunteers, and board members would be subject to discovery. Not to mention the time and cost of deposing everyone remotely connected with this matter. Is this a wise use of our treasury when we have so many other needs? Are we so rich an organization that we can now afford this kind of conduct? Even worse, do we want to be known as an organization that suppresses the rights of its members?
My fellow members, yesterday they came for the leaders of the Youth Executive Board, but lets not wait until they come for us before we speak out about this injustice.
Clifford A. Wiley
President, Missouri Valley Association