Several Canadian mountain bikers are demanding an apology and better training after an Adidas marketing executive wrote a blog post they say maintains institutional barriers in outdoor sports.
The outcry began after the Whistler-based Women’s Freeride Movement published an article in February about how aspiring female athletes need to market themselves better to advance to higher levels in the sport.
Author CJ Selig suggests women ride their bikes more, hire a professional photographer to photograph them while they ride, buy a phone with a high-quality camera, and pay to travel to competitions .
“In short, stop complaining and start rolling. A lot,” Selig wrote.
She also suggested athletes choose to live in established mountain bike centers to better take advantage of competition invitations or sponsorships.
“Do they live in a valued market? This matters for obvious reasons, an athlete’s most influential fan base is usually in their hometown; if it’s Siberia that’s not very attractive to sponsors,” Selig wrote. “Yes [sponsors] need to purchase a plane ticket to Siberia to host a photo shoot or bring their athlete to a demo day in Southern California, this financial burden will be taken into account.
Selig is a California-based mountain biker who is also head of sports marketing at Adidas. She declined to comment for this story.
For Anita Naidu, a professional mountain biker, engineer and diversity consultant based in Whistler, British Columbia, the position seemed steeped in white privilege and disregarded the barriers racialized athletes face.
“It’s basically a manifesto on how to limit the outdoors and mountain biking to wealthy white Westerners,” Naidu told the Daily Hive. “This article refutes all of the systemic barriers that centuries of colonialism have established and suggests that the reason you don’t see women of color in the upper echelons of outdoor sport is because of their own lack of hard work.”
Naidu said the article is deliberately ignorant and fails to acknowledge racial discrimination, global inequality and passport hierarchies – pointing out that it is not easy for everyone to get on a plane to Europe.
Additionally, while many athletes use social media to gain recognition, Naidu said it shouldn’t be the only mechanism for gaining endorsements or professional recognition, especially when Eurocentric beauty standards play a part in the game. attention online.
“Why is it up to non-European athletes to prove to Adidas that they are worthy of being sponsored only through social networks? Adidas has a lot of resources and is present in countries all over the world. If they’re serious about diversity and inclusion, they should have systems that look for talented athletes in the non-European countries they do business in,” Naidu said.
Naidu was also concerned that it was an Adidas marketer, someone who could influence which athletes to sponsor, who wrote the article. She wants Selig and Adidas to apologize and take responsibility, step up anti-racism training and understand what true inclusion means.
“He’s a person with enough power to shape the evolution of outdoor sport,” she said.
Amy Remark, a Squamish-based mountain biker who owns bike clothing store Dirty Jane, told Daily Hive she was removed from a mountain bike Facebook group run by Women’s Freeride Movement after commenting suggesting the Selig’s article was classist and racist. She also said her critical comments on the blog itself had been deleted.
She alleged that Selig responded to her comments with disdain and claimed that Remark misunderstood the message.
“It reinforces a belief system that needs to change,” Remark told the Daily Hive. “If you want to be a feminist, you can’t just include white women… For a white woman in a position of power to say, ‘Do what I did and you can be a pro mountain biker’ – that’s a problem.”
Hayley Diep, a California-based mountain biker and author, also said Selig’s advice came from a privileged place. Accessing the sport, even for recreational purposes, can be very difficult — Diep said she was often the only woman and the only woman of color on the trails on any given day.
To say that success is all about marketing reveals a lack of understanding of inclusion in sport, she said.
“[Adidas] Five Ten and CJ play a huge role in rider sponsorship and marketing. But they will have these classist and racist ideals that they don’t necessarily realize are classist and racist. This makes it very difficult for women of color who are not economically privileged to succeed or be included in sport.
Naomi Maldonado Rodriguez, a mountaineer, said issues of racism and classism are present in many outdoor sports – not just mountain biking. She is the organizer of Out of Bounds Climbing and involved in Belay All, both dedicated to diversity and inclusion in climbing.
“The article really bothered me because it reduced an athlete’s success to perseverance and courage. Obviously those are important characteristics, but what it didn’t really do was acknowledge all the hurdles someone might face before even stepping into [the sport].”
She said Selig failed to acknowledge who had and had not had access to outdoor spaces and financial resources to purchase expensive equipment needed to participate in outdoor sports.
“It’s a recurring problem in almost all outdoor sports,” Maldonado Rodriguez said. “But when a global marketing manager says we’re less likely to sponsor you because you don’t live in a ‘valued market’, what does that say about who Adidas actually wants to represent? Who do they really want to see use their equipment?
The blog post is no longer visible on Women’s Freeride Movement. Daily Hive has contacted the organization for comment, but has yet to hear back. Adidas has yet to issue a public statement, and the company has not responded to Daily Hive’s request for comment.