Nick Symmonds Says USA Track & Field Exploits Patriotism For Profit

"This is not a hobby for me. This is a career."

USA Track & Field runner Nick Symmonds tweeted late Sunday that he had been left off the USA Track & Field (USATF) roster for this month's world championships in Beijing, China.

Symmonds, who competed on the 2008 and 2012 Olympic teams, said the decision was a result of his refusing to sign a statement of conditions that required he wear designated team uniforms at official team functions.

At issue is the fact that USA Track & Field is sponsored by Nike, while Symmonds is individually sponsored by Brooks Sports. Symmonds worried the statement of conditions could injure his professional relationship with Brooks and, hence, his earning potential.

The Huffington Post spoke with Symmonds early Monday afternoon about his decision to take a stand against USA Track & Field.

Tell me in the most broad terms you can why you made the decision you did to not sign with the team.

Well, I would have signed with the team. I didn’t agree to sign the statement of conditions because it was poorly worded and didn’t bother to define their own terms.

When did you first start to become concerned about the wording of the document?

Last year, I qualified to be part of Team USA to represent our country at the world indoor championships, and they asked me to sign the same document. I refused to sign it then, as well. I guess they allowed me to compete without signing it last year, but then this year they decided they weren’t going to.

Obviously, you have a personal stake here. But do you see a larger issue in the relationship between Nike and [USATF]? Or the larger running world? Or do you see it as just your personal issue?

This is an issue between the athletes and USATF. USATF has gotten rich on the hard work of the men and women of Team USA and has sold our right to what we wear for millions of dollars -- reportedly $20 million a year from Nike -- and they share very, very little of that money with the athletes. I’m publishing a blog later today that has an economic study that shows that USATF only shares roughly 8 percent of their annual revenue with athletes. [Editor's note: USATF Chief Public Affairs Officer Jill Geer told ESPN that the organization dedicates half of its annual budget to athletes.]

What do you think would be a more fair breakdown?

Well, industry standard is anywhere from 25 percent to 55 percent, so 8 percent sure is pretty far off from that.

People might say, "Oh, you’re choosing money over patriotism," or something like that ...

This is my job. This is not a hobby for me. This is a career. This is what I do for a living. My business is Nick Symmonds LLC, and I’m the CEO of that business. And yes, there’s a patriotic aspect to this. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to remember that this is a job, and I have responsibility as a business owner to make sure that I am compensated for my work.

Do you believe that the USATF exploits that patriotism?

Yes, absolutely. Yes.

Are you willing to extend this situation into the Olympics should it come to that?

I’ve spoken with the CEO of USATF, Max Siegel, a couple times and he seems very willing to work with me on some of these issues. So I’m going to spend the next year hopefully working closely with him to remedy some of this, and hopefully that means come 2016 this won’t be an issue for myself or for any of my teammates.

I wonder if there’s anything that you feel is being left out of the conversation? Or anything that people aren’t talking about enough with regards to this issue?

The only other thing that I might add would be the fact that on, they very clearly publish the criteria that one must meet to be selected on the team, and nowhere on that criteria does it say you have to sign a statement of conditions. So I did everything that was required of me, that was published, that I had to to make this team, and they still decided to leave me off the team, and that’s wrong, and I feel that a huge injustice has been done and a lot of damage done, and I’m meeting with a lawyer later this week to discuss my options.

 This interview has been edited for clarity.

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