London 2012: American athletes launch protest against strict sponsorship rules forbidding them promoting non-official Olympic brands

 

American track and field athletes have launched an extraordinary protest against strict corporate sponsorship rules which forbid competitors from promoting any non-official Olympic brands for the duration of the Games.

Dozens of track athletes, including some of Team USA’s rising stars, have taken to Twitter to demand a change to the so-called “Rule 40” – which bans athletes from appearing for personal sponsors while the Games are on. Some even posted images of their mouths duct taped with the words “Rule 40” written on across them.

The International Olympic Committee says the ban is needed to protect official brands from ambush marketing. Over the past four years “top tier” sponsors, such as Adidas, McDonalds and BMW, have paid more than £609m towards the Games.

But athletes say they are missing out on a vital two weeks where their global exposure is enormous. Although some of Team USA’s biggest stars make handsome profits from sponsorship deals in the run up to the Games, many struggle to find enough cash to compete. American track athletes receive little government funding and are reliant on sponsors or their own cash.

Sanya Richards-Ross, a gold medal winner in Beijing and Athens, is one of the fortunate ones. She has deals with BMW – an official Olympic sponsor – and clothing giant Nike. But she fears that many of her colleagues are being priced out of athletics by the rules.

“I’ve been very fortunate to do very well around the Olympics, but so many of my peers struggle in this sport,” she told reporters in Stratford today, “And I just think it’s unjust.”

She added: “People see the Olympics, they see the two weeks when athletes are at their best. It’s the most glorious time in their lives but they don’t see the three or four years leading up to the Olympic games when a lot of my peers are struggling to stay in the sport. The majority of track and field athletes don’t have sponsors and don’t have support to stay in the sport. A lot of my peers have second and third jobs to do this.”

Only 2% of Team USA’s athletes, she said, had deals with official Olympic sponsors. When US flagbearer and fencing gold medallist Mariel Zagunis posted a recent tweet thanking official sponsor Procter and Gamble for flying her mum into London for the opening ceremony she was not censured. But a number of athletes have been told to take photos down from their public Facebook accounts promoting non-official brands.

The IOC said it had no intention of backing down over Rule 40. “A huge number of 10,500 athletes who are here would understand why we are doing this,” said IOC spokesman Mark Jones. “For one month, we ask them not to endorse products not related to the Olympics that don’t actually give money back to the movement.

But other athletes have supported the Team USA protestors’ demands. Ed Moses, Olympic hurdles champion in 1976 and 1984, said his earning power had been much higher in his heyday than any American track and field athlete was earning today.

"Track and field has fallen behind a lot of the professional sports," he said. "In 1983, I was making more than professional NFL quarterbacks in the United States, being an amateur athlete. There is nobody in track and field who can even get close to those guys now, not even one person."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?