Two-time Olympian Nick Symmonds has been dropped from the U.S. team for the upcoming world track and field championships in Beijing. U.S. team managers announced their roster today and the Northwest native is being left behind over a contract and sponsorship dispute.
Nick Symmonds qualified for the 2015 World Championships by winning the 800 meter national title in Eugene in late June - he would have been the defending silver medalist at Worlds later this month. But Symmonds refused to sign what he called a "poorly worded" team contract with USA Track & Field. It requires athletes to wear Nike apparel while representing the U.S. in Beijing. A rival sports company, Seattle-based Brooks, is Symmonds’ primary sponsor. He worries individual sponsorships will lose value if athletes can't represent other brands off the track during big events. In a statement, USATF said it "respects Nick's decision not to represent the United States," but cannot unilaterally change or waive conditions in the athletes’ contract.
Last year, Beaverton, Oregon-based Nike inked a multi-million dollar long-term deal to sponsor the U.S. national team in track and field and USATF through 2040.
The 130 U.S. athletes traveling to Beijing for the IAAF World Championships all signed the USATF terms and conditions. That includes Symmonds' teammate on the Brooks Beasts club, Cas Loxsom of Seattle.
Brooks Running Company CEO Jim Weber complimented Symmonds' "spirit, grit and quest" in a Tweet over the weekend.
Although the 31-year-old Symmonds said he was deeply disappointed to miss the World Championships, he explained on Twitter that he was "proud to have stood my ground and fought another battle for athletes' rights."
The 2008 and 2012 Olympian has been outspoken for years about athlete compensation and restrictive sponsorship rules. Symmonds was raised in Boise, graduated from Willamette University and trained for most of the last decade with the Nike-sponsored Oregon Track Club Elite in Eugene. Last year the middle distance runner moved to Seattle after changing his primary sponsor to Brooks.
Alternate 800 meter qualifier Clayton Murphy of New Paris, Ohio will get the Team USA slot vacated by Symmonds. The 2015 IAAF World Championships take place August 22-30.