I’m headed to the USATF Annual Meeting. Here’s the quick guide on what’s happening and how you can help.

Critical Law and Legislative (L&L) Changes

There are two very important resolutions that will be voted on this weekend that affect the future of the way USATF operates, which are in danger of not passing. They are all meant to address a major problem that has arisen in the past few years: the lack of checks and balances for the Board of Directors. USATF has a million things it is trying to accomplish, and historically has had a tendency to become a shit show of competing agendas resulting in stagnation for the overall development and viability of the sport. Considering that, it’s understandable that CEO Max Siegel and Stephanie Hightower and friends have led a charge to bring tons of power to the board so they can “run things like a business” and get a vision pushed through that they believe will help the sport.

I love a good takeover, so I like their spirit here. GET SHIT DONE! But even if their strategy was amazing, we would still have a big problem right now, because things have swung too far and there is not enough accountability or checks and balances in place to protect us from ourselves. Even great leaders with great ideas shouldn’t have full run of the place. Everyone is corruptible by power, and that is why we have an annual meeting, and the chance to restore a bit of balance by making some common sense changes every year.

So back to these resolutions we’ll be lobbying for and then voting on this weekend. I’m writing this post because WE NEED YOUR HELP. We need people (athletes of all speeds, fans, industry people) watching the Annual Meeting this weekend, with at least 2% of one of your eyeballs, and expressing support for these resolutions. I know we’re all busy, but we need the board to know they are being watched and that people care. Public awareness creates pressure to do the right thing, and behave professionally. As you have noticed with FIFA, IAAF, and other governing bodies making international headlines lately, we can not afford to blindly trust leaders to do the right thing. We need systems that make sure those who are acting on our behalf are actually serving our collective interests. These resolutions, if passed, will help do that.

Quick background: The voting delegates are kind of like the House of Reps in the US Government. They represent you and me. There are a certain number of delegates who vote on behalf of youth running, long distance running, elite running, masters, officials, coaches, you name it. There are delegates representing geographic regions. I am a delegate along with all the other athletes in the AAC who are going to the meeting.

Getting Down to It: The L&L Resolutions

“L&L Item 3” — The Elected President of the USATF board will serve as the Chair of the Board. #YesLL3

As a group, we come together and get to vote for one very important member of the board: The President. This is our one collective representative. It’s a big deal. However, currently the President doesn’t actually have any real power. This is weird. They are just one of 15 votes or whatever, and since the board is mostly comprised of appointed (not elected) people, and those appointed people are being appointed based on friendships and alignment of views with Hightower, this renders our President completely toothless. Really there is no point to having a president at all. It’s currently just an honorary thing, and as a result, people with legit qualifications to make a difference don’t bother running for the job. The person on the board with the most power is the Chair of the Board, who sets the agenda, and serves as a leader. This person is currently appointed by the board itself.

Of course the Board Chair isn’t a supreme being. They can still be overturned in votes like anyone else, but they can’t be completely ignored or shut out or removed for having a difference of opinion. Their voice starts the meetings. That person’s voice should be the voice of someone elected by us. The elected President of the Board should also serve as the Chair of the Board. Next year is an election year (not a rules year) so we will gather together to vote for a new President, and if that position has no teeth, we will never attract anyone great to run for the job. I know this because I have talked to very qualified people who are considering running for President, but as things currently stand, they won’t. However, if the President can actually be in a position to make a difference, we will not only attract great people, but we can finally elect someone to restore balance to the board in a meaningful way.

This is a no brainer. It has support from some of the most respected, committed people in the sport. It does not have the support of the board, and they are fighting hard to convince people to vote against it. BUT WE NEED TO GET IT DONE.

“L&L Item 14” — When delegates elect the next IAAF Council Member, the board can not overturn THEIR SELECTION. #YesLL14

This is in direct response to what happened last year when all the delegates representing you and I and everyone in the sport voted 392-70 for Bob Hersh and then the board said “screw you guys we know better” and overturned it to place Stephanie Hightower in the position. If you haven’t figured it out already, this Hightower person is pretty ambitious and likes being in control. Again, I love me an ambitious woman who takes control! But hot damn! Power is getting abused all over the place right now! We collectively complained, and they disregarded us and stood by their decision. They argued Stephanie was better for the new era.

Well, now we certainly have a new era! Since then the old IAAF president was arrested and all that for corruption, and a ton of other people at the top were exposed as frauds. Seb Coe is our new IAAF president, and the sport is in shambles. As a nation, we have one meaningful representative that will have influence in the rebuilding of IAAF, and that person is a person almost nobody wanted in the job. The current rules allow for this to happen over and over again. This position is too important. We need to have a say in who it is. This resolution eliminates the board’s ability to disregard and overturn the vote of the people for this position. In four years we will vote for IAAF Coucil Member again, and if it’s going to be Stephanie Hightower, it needs to be because she has earned our trust by doing a damn good job during this time of crisis. If we have learned anything from recent events, we need our leaders to be elected based on merit, we need them to be transparent, and be held accountable for the work they do.

Again, this resolution is not loved at the top. People want to protect their power, it is natural. But good leaders aren’t afraid of democracy. Unless your constituency is a bunch of homicidal vampires from which you must save all of humanity, there is no legit reason to go to great lengths to remove their teeth.

What Can You Do?

USATF is the governing body of the sport we love. Their decisions affect all of us. Here’s how you can help between today and Sunday when the votes happen. If you know of other ways to help make an impact, please include it in the comments below.

1. Follow and use #USATF15 to follow along the events this weekend when you get a minute, and share things that you feel are important for members of our sport to be aware of.

2. Express support on social media for L&L 3 and L&L 14 with #YesLL3 #YesLL14

3. Email the person on this list that lines up with your geographic region or competition group and ask them briefly to vote in support of L&L 3 and L&L 14.

It’s the right time. Let’s get this done.

xo

Lauren

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P.S. Stay tuned. I’ll be posting updates on social, and this blog. I’ll also blog later today about a different resolution that I am presenting on behalf of the Athletes that aims to increase our ability to make a living. But these two resolutions are the ones that need the most help right now.