Lyles keen to be a union leader for athletes!
Doha: Noah Lyles was talking more like a labour organiser than the next Usain Bolt following his 200 metres win at the world championships, the American sprinter hinting he might be as likely to lead an athletes’ union as be the face of the sport. “I would love that (to lead an athletes’ union), I think about that constantly,” Lyles said. “I talk to a lot of people about that. It’s very hard to start now since I’m just trying to build my career but it is always in the back of my head. I have ideas.”
Unable to break free of its doping past and no obvious candidate to fill the void left by the retirement of charismatic Jamaican Usain Bolt, athletics is sorely in need of ideas and fresh thinking if it is to remain relevant. Unionising is not a revolutionary concept. It pops up into the discussion at almost every world championships or Olympic Games.
I would love that (to lead an athletes’ union), I think about that constantly. I talk to a lot of people about that. It’s very hard to start now since I’m just trying to build my career but it is always in the back of my head. I have ideas.”
However, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) with help from the sportswear giants like Nike and Adidas, who bankroll many areas of the sport, have managed to maintain the status quo. As for the athletes, almost everyone agrees organising is a great idea but no one quite seems to know how to get it done.
Track and field athletes are not alone in their hopes of earning liveable wages and gaining a bigger say in how their sport works.
In North America some of the world’s best women’s ice hockey players have unionized (Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association) and are effectively on strike pledging not to join any professional league until an economically viable option emerges.
The US women’s soccer team has filed a lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation alleging they are consistently paid less than their male counterparts. California last week signed a bill that cleared the way for college athletes to profit from brand sponsorships and endorsement deals.
With sponsorship deals, appearance money and other income spinning ventures, i ncluding rapping and modelling, t he 22-year-old Lyles will not have to wonder where his next meal and rent cheque is coming from. But for many of his fellow athletes competing in Doha, like Norwegian discus thrower Ola Stunes Isene who moved back to his parents’ home because he could not make a living from the sport, the situation is much more challenging.
“I would definitely favour having more than one sponsor, not necessarily Nike,” Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce said. “I believe the athletes should be paid more.”