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."

News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
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

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn